As professional content writers and editors, we tend to notice when certain words and phrases are misused—particularly when it comes to brands’ digital marketing content.
In fact, some of these errors are so prevalent that they have essentially become part of our lexicon, and few people actually notice them.
The following are a few examples of commonly misused words and how they should actually be used in a sentence:
Bemused is often used incorrectly as a synonym for “amused,” but it actually means “bewildered.” For example, “the twists and turns of the path left me bemused.”
Cliché is often used incorrectly as an adjective, but it is actually a noun. The adjective form is “clichéd.” You could say, “the author used a lot of clichés” or “the plot was so clichéd.”
Disinterested is often used incorrectly as a synonym for “uninterested,” but it actually means “unbiased.” You could say, “this argument should only be decided by a disinterested party.”
Hone is often used incorrectly as another way of saying “to home in on” or “to draw closer to,” but it actually means to “sharpen.” “He honed his craft meticulously” is an example.
Ironic is very often used incorrectly. Our content writers could go on and on about the correct use of “ironic” or “irony,” but basically it does not mean “unfortunate” or “unlucky.” Sorry, Alanis Morissette. For example, “it was ironic that the fire department building burned down.”
Parameter is often used incorrectly as a synonym for “limit,” but it actually refers to variables in a study or chart. One could say, “the study is influenced by parameters like educational level and income.”
Verbal is often used incorrectly as a synonym for “oral” or “spoken,” but it actually refers to linguistic communication. “While he understood Spanish in its verbal form, he had difficulty understanding it when spoken aloud.”
Travesty is often mistakenly used as a synonym for “tragedy,” but it really means a parody or mockery. One could say, “his performance of King Lear was a travesty compared to the one I saw on the West End.”
Compelled is often used erroneously to refer to the speaker feeling the need or urge to take some sort of action, but it really means to be forced to do something. One could say, “given the choice between life and death, I was compelled to turn back.”
These are just a few of the examples of commonly misused words our copywriters and editors see almost every day in the content we read online. Which other words or phrases do you often see used incorrectly?