Lose vs. loose. Principle vs. principal. Counsel vs. council. Is your organization guilty of using the wrong words in its published, public-facing content?
Have you ever read a piece of business content and been left scratching your head, trying to make sense of the words presented before you?
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in today's corporate world. It's seriously shocking just how often we see words misused in public-facing content.
And although a misused word may seem insignificant to some, it can have a big impact on how people perceive your brand. After all, it only takes a moment of confusion for someone to question your organization's professionalism and attention to detail.
That's why it's crucial to know and properly use these 12 commonly misused and misspelled business words — especially if you work in content marketing, and communicate on behalf of your organization with external audiences.
By avoiding these mistakes, you can help build trust in your brand and show your customers that you value clear communication.
1. Lose vs. loose
People regularly confuse these two words in their writing, likely because the words are spelled similarly. However, they have two very different meanings.
"Lose" is a verb that means to not win, to misplace, or to be deprived of something. Meanwhile, "loose" is an adjective meaning not tight or firm.
2. Compliment vs. complement
People love to use these two words interchangeably, yet mixing them up can lead to some serious confusion.
Put simply, "compliment" refers to an expression of admiration or praise, while "complement" refers to something that completes or enhances another thing.
If you're ever tempted to use one of these words in your writing, here's a tip to remember which one is correct: a compliment is nice, but a complement makes things even better.
3. Averse vs. adverse
Have you ever found yourself double-checking whether you should use "adverse" or "averse" in your sentence? You're not alone. These similar-looking words have caused confusion among many.
"Adverse" refers to something negative, harmful or unfavorable; while "averse" relates to a feeling of dislike or opposition. As for feeling negative when it comes to taking risk (such as regarding investments)? You would say you're "risk-averse," or you have "risk aversion."
Still confused? Try using "adverse" to describe something negative and "averse" to describe feelings.
4. Lead vs. led
"Lead" is the present tense verb that means to guide or direct. Meanwhile, "led" is the past tense form of the same verb. That said, too often, I see businesses using "lead" when they mean "led."
So before you hit send on that email or post online, take a second to make sure you're using the correct tense.
5. Principle vs. principal
"Principal" refers to someone in a position of leadership, like the principal of a school. "Principle," on the other hand, refers to a fundamental truth or belief.
The next time you're writing, consider whether you're talking about a person (principal) or a concept (principle). Mastering this subtle difference can elevate your writing game (and maybe even impress your grammar-loving friends and colleagues).
You can also use this silly image to help you remember the correct usage:
6. Counsel vs. council
Attention business world: these words are not the same thing!
"Counsel" refers to advice or guidance given to someone. Conversely, "council" means a group of people elected to govern a town or city.
As for the people who provide such guidance, or who are members of a council? They should be referred to as:
Counsellors (in Canada and the UK), or counselors (in the US)
Councillors (in Canada and the UK) or councilors (in the US)
Are your digital platforms and other marketing-communications materials rife with errors?
Worried your organization's public-facing content may be sending the wrong message to your target audiences?
I've been writing and editing content for hundreds of organizations for 20+ years. So whether you're looking for a basic proofread, a style edit beyond the basics, or a full-on rewrite, you can count on me to strengthen your content like never before.