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The Five Most Commonly Misused Phrases in the English Language

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The Five Most Commonly Misused Phrases in the English Language  image Five Commonly Misused Phrases Stickler Editing Image

The English language is endlessly evolving and changing. Words like “conversating,” once considered a “non-word,” have just recently been added to the American Lexicon—and we can all now also thank Beyonce for adding the word “Bootylicious” to the dictionary. And yet, “irregardless” continues to be deemed as improper language, despite its constant usage.

Since “content is king” in the online world, there has been an absolute explosion of articles and blogs as businesses attempt to persuade potential customers to visit their websites. And still, words and phrases like these continue to be misused, abused, or just misunderstood in our day-to-day lives, much to the chagrin of sticklers for grammar like ourselves at SticklerEditing.com. Here is our list of top five misued words and phrases that a lot of people are inappropriately using in their content today:

  1. I Could Care Less
    If you could care less, then who cares? Everyone’s heard this one time and time again, which is why perhaps the inappropriate use of the phrase continues to be heard. The proper term, which is “I couldn’t care less,” sends the proper message: you care so little about something that you couldn’t possibly care less, because you have no care left to give for something so small. Saying that you could care less, however, simply means that you could care more for the topic, which is more likely than not exactly the opposite of what you were intending to convey.
  2. Fit as a Fiddle
    In our perhaps health-centric society, we now commonly believe that the word “fit” always means “healthy” or “in shape.” This, however, was not how the word “fit” in this phrase was intended to be taken. This term started back in the 16th century and evolved from the phrase “as right as a fiddle.” The word “fit” in this term is meant to mean “appropriate” or “suitable.” So before you call that health-conscious friend of yours “as fit as a fiddle,” remind yourself that it doesn’t mean that he or she is in excellent health but that they are, in fact, as “appropriate” as they can be.
  3. You Have Another Thing Coming
    Many people have uttered the words “You have another thing coming!” when intending to send the threatening message “What you’re thinking is wrong, so think again, buddy!” Unfortunately, this is completely inappropriate usage of the phrase. The downfall of this phrase comes from the fact that the “k” in the word “think” often falls silent, so that the original phrase “If you think that, you have another think coming” has now morphed into the term “another thing coming.”
  4. To Beg the Question
    This phrase, though most commonly used to mean “to raise the question,” is not in fact what it means. This phrase first appeared in the English language in the 1580s and appeared as “begge” a question—meaning to reference a question or a phrase that implies the truth of whatever it is that it’s trying to prove. Confused? You’re not alone. To show an example of what this phrase means, we’ll look at the question, “Why does Africa have less water than North America?” The person asking the question is implying that North America has more water than Africa, when in actuality it may not.
  5. To Wreck Havoc
    Though admittedly a large amount of the population gets this one right, a fair amount still says “to wreck havoc” rather than “wreak” havoc. To wreck havoc would make no sense (you’re already destroying chaos and putting it into… further… chaos…?), whereas to wreak havoc does (you’re causing chaos).

Believe it or not, even the greatest of authors routinely make errors like this. This is exactly why using editing services is a good idea, thus ensuring that your work doesn’t contain any mistakes like these five common misued phrases. But these are just five small examples—join the conversation and add more of your own in the comments.

Comments on this Article: 2

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  1. When I read this article title, I immediately thought of the “I could care less” phrase so many people use without realizing it’s wrong. It was nice to see it listed as #1. Nice post!

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