Usually, we steer away from posting English vocabulary bloopers from abroad — it's funnier when English trips up native English-language speakers. And people learning English as a second language might take offence to the perception we're poking fun at them. After all, how well would we fare learning a new language? However, the following list of Finnglish — mangled English from Finland — was sent to us in good faith and in good spirit. In the following examples, we're not laughing so much at the perpetuator of the English vocabulary mistake, as we are at the English language itself. English is a weird language that can easily get us confused. Enjoy these vocabulary bloopers in the spirit in which they're given, in good humour.
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!
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.
Tautologies — that is, expressing the same idea in different words — waste words and can annoy your reader. Here is a list of tautologies and some alternatives.
A great way of enlivening your writing, whether it's an essay, an email, a poem, a blog post, or a short story, is to use similes.
People sometimes email us questions or post questions on the English Language Skills Facebook™ Page about spelling, vocabulary, writing, and other English-related topics. As a result, we have decided to select some of the best questions and post the answers for everyone to read. The first Question and Answer comes from Monique about "Collecting Words".