8 words that may not mean what you think they mean

In one of the early scenes of the film “The Princess Bride,” a mysterious man in black is pursuing the kidnapper Vizzini.

[Editor’s note: If you haven’t seen this movie, stop reading this article right now—slap yourself across the face—and go watch it.]

When Inigo Montoya (one of Vizzini’s hired hands) points out that they are being followed, Vizzini responds that it is “inconceivable.” With the man in black closing in, and Vizzini still insisting that this is “inconceivable,” Inigo says to him: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Here are eight words (beyond “inconceivable”) that may not mean what you think they mean:

1. Comprise

To comprise is to enclose or include. Comprise is used in the active voice; therefore, “comprised of” is not correct. For example, The university comprises six colleges and nine divisions.

Comprise is often confused with compose, which means to make up or be a constituent of. Compose can be used in the passive voice. The company is composed of four employees.

2. Forgo

Forgo means to do without, bypass, or abstain from. It is often confused with forego (as in “a foregone conclusion”), which means to precede. For instance, Liz was so engrossed in her book that she decided to forgo lunch and read instead.

3. Imply

Imply is often used incorrectly as a synonym for infer. To imply is to speak indirectly or suggest.You are implying that bank robbery is our only alternative. To infer is to surmise or conclude. I infer from your statement that you agree with this solution. Remember that one draws an inference.

4. Less

Less is often confused with fewer. Use less to refer to quantities that can’t be counted and fewer to refer to numbers.There were less people in the office today is incorrect, because people can be counted. Instead say: There were fewer people in the office today.

5. Literally

Literally means “in the exact meaning of the word(s),” and use of this word permits no figurative use or exaggeration. For instance, this sentence—Editing that article literally killed me—means that you died at your desk.

6. Poisonous

Poisonous—often confused with venomous—means a plant, animal, or substance capable of causing death or illness if taken into the body. Venomous means capable of injecting venom.

A rattlesnake is not itself poisonous, because if you eat one it won’t poison you. A blowfish will kill you if you eat it, so it is poisonous, but not venomous.

7. Precision

In science writing, precision is how close a set of measured values are to each other. Precision is often confused with accuracy, which means how close a measured value is to the true value. Confused? As explained on Mathisfun.com, “If you are playing soccer and you always hit the left goal post instead of scoring, then you are not accurate, but you are precise!”

8. Unique

Unique means being the only one of its kind, unlike anything else. It does not mean simply “unusual” or “rare.” For example, something isn’t “very unique.” It’s just unique.

As part of the tour, we were allowed to see the author’s unique existing handwritten manuscript.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, unique is included in a set of adjectives whose meaning is absolute and cannot be modified by adverbs conveying degree, such as “really,” “quite,” or “very.” Something is either unique or not; therefore, “very unique” is meaningless. Other “absolute adjectives” include complete, equal, infinite, and perfect.

Readers, care to share any other commonly misunderstood words?

Laura Hale Brockway an Austin-based writer and editor and is the author of the grammar/usage/random thoughts blog, impertinentremarks.com.

From:  http://www.prdaily.com/writingandediting/Articles/11715.aspx


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Simply put, a preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence.  There are about 150 prepositions in English. Yet this is a very small number when you think of the thousands of other words (nouns, verbs etc). Prepositions are important words. We use individual prepositions more frequently than other individual words. In fact, the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English.

(Info from http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm)

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Business Grammar

Mechanically correct and flawlessly professional documents increase your on-the-job credibility and aid precise communication. Business Grammar consists of three elements:

  • Punctuation
  • Spelling and Usage
  • Grammar and Sentence Structure


Punctuation consists of such things as the correct use of apostrophes, colons, commas, hyphens, italics, parentheses, periods, quotation marks, and semicolons. You also need to know the conventions for plurals and possessives.

Spelling & Usage

Here you’ll findt tips for using spelling checkers effectively and for remembering the difference between commonly confused words such as affect and effect. You also need to know conventions for capitalization and numbers.

Grammar & Sentence Structure

Grammar and sentence structure are concerned with topics like subject-verb agreement and pronoun use (for example, using I, me, and myself correctly). You need to be able to recognize and correct sentence fragments, run-on sentences and lack of parallel structure.

by Dr. Judith M. Newman

(info from http://www.lupinworks.com/roche/pages/busGrammar.php)

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Many of us have a love/hate relationship with commas.

The comma is a valuable, useful punctuation device because it separates the structural elements of sentences into manageable segments. The rules provided here are those found in traditional handbooks; however, in certain rhetorical contexts and for specific purposes, these rules may be broken.

The following is a short guide to get you started using commas. This resource also includes sections with more detailed rules and examples.

Quick Guide to Commas

1. Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.

2. Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause.

3. Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off clauses, phrases, and words that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.

4. Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses). That clauses after nouns are always essential. That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

5. Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series.

6. Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

7. Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift.

8. Use commas to set off phrases at the end of the sentence that refer back to the beginning or middle of the sentence. Such phrases are free modifiers that can be placed anywhere in the sentence without causing confusion.

9. Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), addresses (except the street number and name), and titles in names.

10. Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation.

11. Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading.

(from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/01/)

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Common Mistakes

As you can see, spelling matters . . .


1. Who / Whom

These similar pronouns are often used to join two sentences or phrases together but they work quite differently.

Who” refers to a subject of the sentence. This is correct: The old man, who was dressed in simple clothes, is none other than the founder of a large business corporation.

Whom” refers to an object of a sentence. This is correct: This is the Steve, whom I met in my friend’s party. “Whom” here refers to Steve. In the second part of the sentence, Steve becomes the “object” of the sentence.

2. Its / It’s

Its” is a possessive adjective belonging to a thing or associated with a thing. This is correct: The dog is wagging its tail.

It’s” is a contraction of “it is”. This is correct: It’s pretty annoying to have someone talking loudly in the cinema.

3. Irregardless / regardless

There is no such word as “irregardless“. Regardless means without considering the current or the mentioned situation. This is correct: Regardless of the dangers of this operation, the firemen dashed into the building to save the victims.

4. Bought / Brought

These two words are easily misspelled because of a difference in only a letter.

Bought” is a verb that is past tense of “buy” while “Brought” is a verb that is the past tense of “bring”.

5. Principle / Principal

Principle” refers to a noun that is the fundamental of foundation for reasoning or belief. This is correct: I am not doing any illegal or immoral activities because this is a matter of my own principles.

Principal” is a noun that refers to the first in order of importance. It also refers to an original sum of money for investment or loan. This is correct: With the annual interest rate of ten percent and the principal amount of the investment is a hundred thousand dollars, you are likely to receive a hundred and ten thousand dollars at the end of the investment.

6. Unless / Although / Though

These are conjunctions, which connects 2 sentences together. “Unless” works differently from “although” and “though”.

Unless” is used to determine if a statement or event is valid or true, based on a condition that is given. If the condition is fulfilled, the statement would not be valid. This is correct: Unless you have an e-mail address, you will not be able to sign up for Facebook. This is incorrect: Unless you have an e-mail address, you will be able to sign up Facebook.

A popular mistake is the usage of “but” when using “although” and “though“. This is incorrect: Although you had done your best, but you are still unable to become one of the finalists of this competition. This is correct: Although you have done your best, you are still unable to become one of the finalists of this competition.

7. In time / On time

Both phrases work very similarly, with a slight difference in meaning. “In time” would refer to having enough time to spare to accomplish a certain task. This is correct: He was saved because they brought him to the hospital in time.

On time” would indicate punctuality, which meets the planned time. This is correct: The meeting has to start on time.

8. At the end/ In the end

In the end” is used to show that a long time has passed and there is a conclusion. This is correct: In the end, I received a refund for my spoilt printer.

At the end” is to show a point where something stops. This is correct: The bulk of the movie was entertaining, but it became disappointing at the end, because it ended so suddenly.

9. At the beginning / In the beginning

This is similar to the previous one. “At the beginning” refers to a specific point of time. This is correct: You will be asked to give a simple introduction of yourself at the beginning of the lesson.

In the beginning” refers to something that starts over a period of time. This is correct: Our ancestors faced many hardships in the beginning.

(from http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/writing-for-the-web-tips-common-mistakes-we-make/)

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Ten Words You Need to Stop Misspelling

10 words you need to stop misspelling




(from http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling)

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