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This is a follow-up post to my earlier Copywriting Tips. If this post helps just one person avoid making an embarrassing mistake, I’ll consider it a success.

Just Plain WRONG Words and Phrases

“It’s doggy dog”

If you mean “ruthless”, the correct expression is it’s dog eat dog or dog-eat-dog. (What the hell is a “doggy dog” anyway?)

Alot

You see this one a lot… but there is no such word. Should be two words: a lot.

Should of

It’s should have. (Also could have and would have, rather than could of and would of.)

Use to

If you mean that someone previously did something, you mean used to. For example, “I used to make some embarrassing mistakes.”

Anyways

Should be anyway. You might be able to get away with “anyways” in speech, but in writing it’s unforgivable.

I seen

Simply not grammatical, a sure sign of inferior education and negligent upbringing. Should be either I saw or I have seen.

Irregardless

Admittedly, this “word” now appears in dictionaries. But it’s an absolute travesty. Does regardless really need the extra appendage? (I have a similar — if less violent — reaction to ironical. What’s wrong with ironic?)

 

Frequently-Confused Words and Phrases

Hone vs Home In

To hone means to polish or perfect something. (“I’m honing my writing skills.”) If you mean getting closer or zeroing in on something, write “home in”. (I’m homing in on the source of the problem.)

Every Day vs Everyday

Everyday means unremarkable or commonplace. (It’s an everyday occurrence.)

Every day means at least once per day. (I do it every day.)

So to put it all together, “I use my everyday cutlery pretty much every day.”

Discrete vs Discreet

Discrete means distinct or separate. “The book has twelve discrete chapters.”

Discreet means prudent, tactful or capable of keeping a secret. “It’s safe to tell Bob about the surprise party. He’s very discreet.”

Antidote vs Anecdote

An anecdote is a short story that’s funny or makes a point.

An antidote is a drug that counteracts a poison.

Further vs Farther

Use farther to describe physical distance only. Use further for everything else. (“To further my real-world experience, I had to move farther from home.”)

i.e. vs e.g.

i.e means In other words…, That is…, or What I really mean to say is

e.g. means For example…

Its vs it’s

I’ve covered this one before, but it’s worth repeating…

It’s (with the apostrophe) is only appropriate when used as a contraction of it is or it has. The possessive its has no apostrophe. “It’s been a long time since the dog wagged its tail.”

It might help if you bear in mind that there’s no apostrophe in other similar possessives: his, hers, theirs, ours, and yours.

See more about apostrophes.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

The following aren’t ungrammatical. They’re just overused, nonsensical and generally egregious.

“It goes without saying…”

If it goes without saying, don’t say it!

“…in any way, shape or form”

A mindless and meaningless phrase — and a sure sign that the speaker/writer is on autopilot.

 

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll note other common mistakes in future posts. Suggestions welcome!

 

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