It’s probably happened more than once at work: you wanted to look smart, so you used a word that you thought would impress people, but instead you felt like you didn’t. had no idea what you were. were talking.
As the host of the “You’re Saying It Wrong” podcast and co-author of several grammar books, we have encountered a number of offenders in our years talking to people about words. These are “trades” that have the potential to make you smarter, but most people use them incorrectly.
Of course, the English language is constantly evolving, and some of the alternatives that we suggest avoiding in certain contexts are increasingly accepted. Yet, especially in your professional life, it’s better – and much easier – to stick to traditional norms when speaking or writing.
alternatively and optional
Alternate is often used as a fancy way of saying alternate. But technically speaking, this is wrong. refers alternatively to one or more options or possibilities; Alternation refers to two or more things that happen one after the other.
There is a big difference, but these days the distinctions are blurring. So if you want to avoid problems with grammar purists, make that distinction – or, on the contrary, don’t!
Explanation and explanation
We once read something in a professional email that made us nervous: “Attachment is for exploration …”
The author probably thought that there was a more formal way of saying explanation. but it’s not like that. Explanation is a general term meaning something that is not clear; Interpretation is a more technical term generally used to carefully intersect deeper meanings with literary texts.
Outside of the classroom, you had better stick to explanations rather than explanations.
safe and secure
Writing definite instead of definite, as in “the CFO set a certain time for the meeting”, is a common substitution that does not work at all.
What the author meant was that the CFO set a specific (fixed) time for the meeting. But defined means authoritative, conclusive, most reliable, final – as in “the CFO’s report gives a definitive explanation as to why the company’s stock fell.”
selfless and selfless
It might sound trite, but it bothers a lot of managers: A lot of people think that not being interested is a fanatic way of thinking, but the two words mean different things.
Showing no interest means showing no interest; Indifferent means impartial, without bias – as in “the judge was indifferent to the arbitration hearing, but he was certainly not interested in the arguments put forward by the lawyers”.
economical and economical
A headline we read once: “New President Inherits Economic Crisis?”
And we don’t know the answer. But what we do know is that it should be economical rather than economical. Economical means prudent, efficient or economical; Economic means linked to the economy.
An acceptable adline might be: “Is the new president inheriting the economic crisis, or will he avoid it by encouraging citizens to be thrifty?”
huge and vast
“The enormity of his accomplishments impressed the CEO.” Does this sound fair? It shouldn’t be.
Some might say we are loud, but enormity (although it actually means very big or great) usually has a very negative connotation, as in “the enormity of the crimes of the dictator …”
So if you want to congratulate someone or something, we don’t recommend using enormity to describe their accomplishments.
historical and historical
We once heard a news anchor say, “This was a historic day on Wall Street, the biggest intraday decline on record.” It’s technically correct, but it really grows.
each The last day is a historic day. But only a few days are historic. Historical simply means “based in history”, so anything that happened in the past is historical and not necessarily new.
Yesterday we had a chicken salad sandwich on rye bread. this was historic. Historical means significant, famous or significant or famous in history – something like a huge drop in the intraday stock market.
amazing and amazing
“This story is so incredible that I was in disbelief.” This is the correct way to get the exact difference between these two words, although many people think incredible is just a specific way of saying it.
It’s not. Incredible means skeptical or incredible, while incredible means wonderful.
simple and simple
We recently saw a job posting looking for “simple software engineers”. We think the HR department meant “simple”, unless they were really looking for engineers who were “flawless” or had “childish simplicity”, because that’s what simple means.
Simple, on the other hand, means very smart or ingenious, which is way more than you would expect from a software engineer.
methodology and methodology
Methodology is a boring term that needs to be replaced. But it has often appeared as an alternative to the “method”, especially in government documents and corporate annual reports, perhaps because it seems authoritative, important … and ostentatious.
But avoid using it unless you are talking about Study or survey methods. Otherwise, stick to the method.
avoid and erase
“Sorry if I avoid the obvious.” This was written by a sales manager explaining the breakdown of goals in an email to his employees.
She clearly thought she was apologizing for making something obvious, well, obvious. But he should really apologize for “leaving” that.
Even though it may seem that the explicit word is related to the explicit word, it is not. When you make something clear, you make it clear or easy to understand. When you avoid something, you delete it or make it unnecessary.
opportunists and opportunists
Opportunists seem to have so many opportunities that it’s understandable that we see enthusiastic sales pitches like, “These are opportunistic times for real estate investors! “
The problem is, opportunistic means something completely different from expediency, and that has negative connotations. Opportunist means “to take advantage of circumstances regardless of morality”, while expediency simply means “is suitable or suitable for a particular action”.
By going fanciful and choosing a five-letter word over a two-syllable word, you’re not saying it’s a good time for something, but you’re saying it’s time to go against it. ethics. Probably not the point you want to make.
extraordinary and extraordinary