These misused words pop up all the time in business' written content. Are they in yours?
"What's the word I should use again?"
"Is it X, Y ... or Z?"
"Why can't I ever remember the rules about this word?"
Sound familiar? We all have at least a couple words that mix us up when we're writing (myself included). And hey, mistakes happen. To all of us.
But far too often, I see words misused in business' written content. And that can negatively affect how people perceive your organization and brand.
So what's the big deal about a few misused words?
You may be thinking the occasional written error isn't that much of a concern.
I beg to differ. When word misuse appears to be a pattern, this can:
Significantly decrease the chances your business message will be understood
Reflect poorly on your organization's credibility and intelligence
Indicate that your business doesn't care about the small (but often most significant to customers) details
In other words: never underestimate the importance of clean, clear, correct content to people whose money and attention you seek.
No, not everyone will notice your errors. But some people will. And they may be your most important customers or stakeholders.
So without further ado, here is a list of some of the most confusing and misused words I often see in business' written content - and some resources to ensure you use the right ones.
1. i.e. vs. e.g.
Not sure when (or where) to use i.e or e.g.?
Both abbreviations are often used in the same documents (e.g., longer-form content like industry or research reports). Both are also Latin and, even spelled out in full, may not make sense to the average person.
Plus ... sometimes both i.e. and e.g. can apply. So it's easy to get them confused.
Here's a valuable chart with literal definitions of each abbreviation. Refer to this to figure out whether i.e. or e.g. work best in your writing.
2. Lie vs. lay
I admit it — lie and lay are two words that make me run to Dictionary.com every time I need to write them. For some reason, I just can't commit to memory the proper uses of lie and lay!
Here's a great resource from Reader's Digest that shares each word's definition PLUS how to use them in specific tenses:
3. Assure, insure, and ensure
Said aloud, all three words sound similar. Confusing things even more, assure, insure and ensure even have similar meanings.
So which word should you use ... and when?
Here's a handy image that simplifies and differentiates each term:
4. A lot vs. allot
Put simply, a lot is an adjective that refers to a large number or amount. Meanwhile, allot is a verb that means "to give something"
5. Peek, peak and pique
I see these three words used incorrectly in professionally written conte
nt all the time. It truly is a tricky homophone for many people.
Luckily, this image beautifully simplifies the differences between the three words:
6. Affect vs. effect
Figuring out whether to use affect or effect in a sentence can be particularly tricky.
Yes, both words sound very similar. But despite having distinct definitions, there can also be a lot of overlap and interchangeability.
Here's a way to figure out whether to use affect or effect in your writing. Note that while it's not correct 100% of the time, this tip should help you in about 90% of cases:
Effect is the end result.
Think Effect = End Result.
Meanwhile, affect is the cause, or what creates or leads to the end result.
Think Affect = Action.
Or use this handy RAVEN mnemonic device to jog your memory when you can't remember which word is which:
7. Accept vs. except
Both words look and sound similar — so, granted, they're often mixed up in speech and writing. However, each word has its own very different meaning, so they should never be used interchangeably.
Accept is always used as a verb, primarily meaning to agree to take or receive something.
Except is normally used to mean "but," "with the omission of," or "only."
8. Weary vs. leery vs. wary
I literally cringe when I hear people use these words incorrectly. So imagine my delight when I found the absolute perfect image to demonstrate their differences and similarities!
Meanwhile, check out how creatively the writer presents her case for using the right words:
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