101 incorrectly used words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about incorrectly used words…

One of my pet peeves is to see a grocery store sign reading, “this aisle for 12 items or less.” Of course, the correct wording should be “12 items or fewer.” (I was particularly irritated a few years ago when my grocer took down the correct sign and replaced with a more expensive, laminated version — this time, with an error it.)

Reader Jay Thorwaldson emailed me recently (thanks, Jay!) with a link to an Inc. article headlined “101 Incorrectly Used Words That Can Make You Look Dumb.” As I expected, the less/fewer distinction made the list. So did a bunch of other errors that many of us make. I particularly appreciated the reminder about the difference between discreet and discrete. I know the difference between the two words. But I just never remember which is which, so I have to look them up every time I want to use one of them.

Here’s how the article explained it:

Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment: “We made discreet inquiries to determine whether the founder was interested in selling her company.”

Discrete means individual, separate, or distinct: “We analyzed data from a number of discrete market segments to determine overall pricing levels.”

Don’t allow other people to undervalue you by seeing you as poorly educated — particularly not if you’re a writer. Review this list and ensure you’re not making any of these 101 errors.