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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Despite spending most of my time writing, I am constantly nervous I'll click send on an email containing an error.
I've already experienced the horrifying feeling when I'm typing a message and somehow accidentally press "enter" in just the way that signals Gmail to "send email." I usually look like this after -
It has happened to me so often that I now finish typing my emails before entering an address for it to even deliver to.
The word error fear is just too real. 
But far worse than my fears are the negative impacts of incorrectly used words. Many people will completely ignore a request to connect after reading a word mistake. Or reject a resume. Or delete a sales email. 
To help myself (and whoever else stumbles upon this post) avoid these common word errors, I put together the following presentation with clarifications for 64 commonly misused words.
  Adverse vs Averse
Harmful or unfavorable.
Scattered meetings can have an adverse impact on employee productivity. 
Having strong dislike or opposition.
Many employees are averse to a schedule of scattered meetings.
  Advice vs Advise
A proposal for an appropriate course of action. 
Her advice was to cluster meetings at a set period of time during the day to maintain.
To give guidance; to offer a suggestion.
She advised all new employees to cluster meetings to help manage an efficient work schedule. 
  Affect vs Effect
(v) to alter or influence; to move to motion.
(n) feeling or emotion.
The manager's harsh attitude toward his performance really affected Billy. 
(v) To make something happen; to accomplish.
(n) The making of a desired impression.
The new campaign had a positive effect for the team's quarterly goals. 

  Compliment vs Complement
A polite expression; admiration.
She showered her teammates with compliments whenever she possibly could.
To complete.
Her design work complemented the rest of the campaign beautifully.

  Criteria vs Criterion
A basis for comparison (plural).
There was a set of criteria every new hire was expected to meet in the first week.
A basis for comparison (singular).
The only criterion for the job was a willingness to work round-the-clock.  

  Discreet vs Discrete
Careful in action or speech.
Her discreet cough signaled the presenter to wrap up his speech within the next ten minutes.
Individually separate and distinct.
Comparing each discrete channel allowed for a full-funnel analysis of what was and wasn't working.

  Elicit vs Illicit
To evoke a response or answer.
Even when she's fully confident in her work, Mary would elicit positive feedback from her peers. 
Forbidden by rules or custom; illegal.
Everyone knew about their illicit office affair - no matter how hard they tried to hide it.

  Farther vs Further
A great distance.
The new office was farther from her apartment than she initially estimated.
To advance or move up.
After a series of debates, the team lead canceled further discussion on the matter for a few days.

  Formally vs Formerly
Officially; in accordance with proper etiquette.
She was formally introduced to the CEO after concluding the application process.
In the past; in earlier times.
The new space, formerly owned by Company X, will be renovated this week.

  i.e. vs e.g.
Roughly meaning "it is" or "in other words."
He said the design came out differently than his vision - i.e., we were about to get some feedback for edits.
Roughly meaning "for example."
His recommendations for a new design followed a more traditional art form - e.g., the Coca-Cola logo.

  Imply vs Infer
To suggest.
The salesman often referenced his years of experience to imply he was superior to the other reps.
To deduce or conclude. 
Based on the data available, one could infer that email was the strongest performing lead channel.

  Insure vs Ensure
To secure or protect. 
By having a set policy, they might insure the company from potential lawsuits.
To be certain of; to guarantee. 
She ensured the executive suite heard her thoughts loud and clear.

  Into vs In To
In the direction of something.
She hurried into the conference room five minutes early to get the seat with the extra padding. 
In To
A combination of adverb "in" and preposition "to".
She decided to call in to the meeting rather than try to find an open seat in the packed conference room. 

  It's vs Its
A contraction for "it is."
It's in her best interest to complete the final product by the assigned deadline. 
Possessive form of "it."
Each team likes to boast that its office space is the best heated. 

  Loathe vs Loath
Intense dislike or disgust.
He loathed the new office structure.
Reluctant; unwilling.
He was loath to leave his team behind.

  Me vs I
The person a thing is done to.
When the report is done processing, please forward it to Sarah and me. 
The person doing the thing.
You and I will forward the report once it's done processing. 

  Number vs Amount
Used to count, measure, and label.
There are a set number of applicants that we can invite to the final interview.
The total collection in size or extent.
The interview process requires a tremendous amount of effort from the entire team. 

  Precede vs Proceed
To come before something in time.
The rant that preceded the official presentation was a waste of everyone's time.
To begin or continue a course of action.
She proceeded with the rant even after noticing everyone's lacking interest.

  Principal vs Principle
The head of something; of chief importance.
The high employee turnover was now a principal concern of the company.
A fundamental rule of conduct.
The manager had a set list of principles for the team to learn. 

  They're vs Their
A contraction for "they are."
They're in for a rude awakening when the yearly earnings are publicized.
Possessive of "they."
The employees often exercised their right to unlimited vacation. 

  Who vs That
Used when referencing a person.
Janet was always the employee who went the extra mile to get the project done.
Used when referencing an object.
Despite Janet's hard-working nature, she worked on the team that was known for laziness.

  Who's vs Whose
A contraction for "who is."
Who's responsible for the recent campaign that went viral?
Possessive form of "who." 
Was it Janet whose team was known for laziness?

  You're vs Your
A contraction for "you are."
When you're ready, let's head to the ice cream social.
Possessive of "you."
The COO will always ask for your favorite ice cream flavor.

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