Online debates can escalate quickly, especially on Facebook. In the rush to make our point, we search for a phrase that's on the tip of our tongue, and hurriedly type the punchy aphorism so our opponents might quickly succumb to our erudition and wit. Only sometimes, we rush too fast; what seemed initially like the moment we would soar, turns out to be the moment we came down with a thud. When our opponent points out we've made an embarrassing blunder, our credibility (if we ever really had any) is shot. Here is a list of such moments; when in reaching for the knockout punch, the keyboard warrior reached too far...
In previous lists of misused words and phrases, I listed some fairly common examples of words and phrases that people sometimes misuse. The following list of misused words and phrases is harder to believe, but these are genuine English mistakes, made by students and others. I have collected these misused words and phrases from several sources. Enjoy!
As we said in the first part of "Misused Idioms and Phrases", a misused word or phrase can damage your credibility as a writer or speaker. Here is another selection of phrases and sayings that you should take care to get right.
Why on earth does English have both enquiry and inquiry — are they different words or not? Read on to discover the answer to this conundrum!
There is a lot of research on the persuasiveness, or otherwise, of so-called "hedge words" — words that qualify a statement or make you sound equivocal (such as "possibly" and "probably"). Most research I have read recommends eliminating hedge words, where you can. More nuanced research suggests that qualified statements can be more persuasive than unqualified statements, depending on your audience. For example, if your reader knows and is interested in your subject, then qualified statements may persuade them more than unqualified statements; however, for people who do not know your subject or who are uninterested or who are too busy to really pay attention, then hedge words can deplete the strength and meaning of your message. Here is a list of hedge words to think carefully about.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but using emphatic language can sometimes weaken your argument rather than strengthen your argument. By contrast, understatement has much more persuasive force. Look at the following list of emphatic words and phrases and think about whether you really need them in your writing.
If you're like me, then you prefer to read what did happen rather than what did not happen. To improve your writing, try turning negative words and phrases into "positive" words and phrases. Here is a list that might help you.
It behoves good writers to avoid archaisms as much as possible. Archaisms are old-fashioned words that usually sound contrived or pretentious. Here are a few archaisms and some plain English alternatives you might want to think about.