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50 + 2 Improperly Used Words in Writing

Using the wrong words in business communications can be more than just embarrassing, it can damage your credibility and could even be a cause for rejection of your proposal. The way we speak and the way we communicate in the written word, are frequently different. Below you’ll find 52 frequently misused and abused words in business writing. Most you are likely aware of, but some may surprise you.
 
accept, except
accept – (verb) To agree with, take in, receive. Example: We accept your proposal.
except – (preposition) Apart from. Example: All committee members are present except for Ms. Brown.
 
acute, chronic
acute – (adjective) Sharp, intense, critical. Example: The company has an acute shortage of skilled workers right now.
chronic – (adjective) Constant, habitual, long lasting. Example: She is unable to work because of a chronic illness.
 
adverse, averse
adverse – (adjective) Unfavorable, opposing one’s interest. Example: They found themselves in adverse circumstances.
averse – (adjective) Antipathy, repugnance, having the feeling of being opposed. Example: She is not averse to increasing her workload.
 
affect, effect
affect – (verb) To influence something. Example: How will that affect the bottom line?
effect – (noun) The result of. (verb) to cause something to be. Example: Her speech had the effect of motivating the listeners.
 
allusion, illusion
allusion – (noun) A casual reference of mention of something. Example: Was that an allusion to Hemingway?
illusion – (noun) Something that gives a false picture of reality. Example: He believes democracy is an illusion.
 
all right, alright
all right – Fine, OK. Example: It’s all right to leave early.
alright – Incorrect spelling, but often shows up in informal writing.
 
apprise, appraise
apprise – (verb) Give notice to. Example: Please apprise me of the situation.
appraise – (verb) Determine the worth of something. Example: The ring was appraised before we purchased it.
 
assure, ensure, insure
assure – (verb) To state with confidence, pledge or promise. Example: I assure you the check is in the mail.
ensure – (verb) To make certain. Example: Following the instructions ensures you won’t get hurt.
insure – (verb) To purchase insurance. Example: Insure the package before you mail it.
 
beside, besides
beside – (preposition) At the side of, next to, near. Example: Take a seat beside me.
besides – (adverb) Furthermore, in addition to. Example: Besides, several of us will be out of town next week.
 
compliment, complement
compliment – (verb) To give praise. Example: I complimented Steve on his speech.
complement – (verb) To complete something or match it well. Example: Her skills complement the needs of our department.
 
continual, continuous
continual – (adjective) Often repeated, very frequent – but occasionally interrupted. Example: They’ve received continual complaints.
continuous – (adjective) Uninterrupted. Example: We couldn’t hear over his continuous talking.
 
disburse, disperse
disburse – (verb) To pay, distribute, scatter. Example: They disbursed name tags to everyone attending the meeting.
disperse – (verb) To drive off, spread widely, cause to vanish. Example: The throng of fans dispersed into the stands.
 
farther, further
farther – (adverb) At or to a greater distance. Example: We are located farther down the highway.
further – (adverb) More or additional -- but not related to distance. Example: We need to have further discussion on that.
 
fewer, less
fewer – (adjective) Of a small number, only used with countable items. Example: He made fewer mistakes than last time.
less – (adjective or adverb) To a smaller extent, amount or degree -- used with quantities that cannot be individually counted. Example: If they made less noise, we could concentrate.
 
imply, infer
imply – (verb) To suggest. Example: What are you implying by that accusation?
infer – (verb) To deduce from evidence. Example: From the look on your face, I can infer you’re not happy with the decision.
 
its, it’s
its – (pronoun) Possessive form of "it.” Example: The machine has lost its ability to scan documents.
it’s – Contraction of "it is.” Example: It’s not a question of right or wrong.
 
lose, loose
lose – (verb) Fail to win, misplace. Example: Did you lose your file?
loose – (adjective) Free from anything that restrains. Example: Since losing weight, his clothes seem loose.
 
of, have
of – (preposition) Frequently confused with "have” since "could’ve” is pronounced "could of.” But "of” cannot be used as a verb.
have – (verb) Proper verb form for "could have,” "should have” and "would have.”
 
principal, principle
principal – (noun) Person who has controlling authority. (adjective) Something essential or important. Example: Let’s talk about the principal reason we’re meeting today.
principle – (noun) Basic truth, policy or action. Example: It’s important to stick to our principles.
 
regardless, irregardless
regardless – (adjective or adverb) In spite of. Example: We are leaving, regardless of whether you’re ready.
irregardless – This is not a word. (Yes, you may find it in your dictionary, but you’re only embarrassing yourself if you use it.)
 
than, then
than – (preposition) In contrast to. Example: I’d rather speak face-to-face than communicate by e-mail.
then – (adverb) Next. Example: We met for dinner, then went to a movie.
 
their, there, they’re
their – (pronoun) Belonging to them. Example: Where is their car?
there – (adverb) In a place. Example: Let’s visit there.
they’re – Contraction of "they are.” Example: They’re not leaving without saying good-bye, are they?
 
Who, whom
Who – (pronoun) Use ‘who’ when referring to the subject of a sentence. Example: "Who loves you?”
Whom – (pronoun) Use ‘whom’ when referring to the object of a sentence. Example: "Whom do I love?”
 
whose, who’s
whose – (pronoun) Possessive case of "who” or "which.” Example: Whose keys are these?
who’s – Contraction of "who is.”  Example: Who’s going to the game after work?
 
your, you’re
your – (pronoun) Belonging to you. Example: Your briefcase is over there.
you’re – Contraction of "you are.” Example: You’re not going to believe this.


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