Five Commonly Misused Words

When conveying a message it is important to use the correct vocabulary words.  If you do not use the correct word from the English language’s large selection of vocabulary, then you have given the wrong message.  It is very important to convey the right message at anytime, but especially so if you have a vast readership.  If you are posting to the web, then your audience is uncountable.

Some of the most commonly misused words that I have come across while editing papers are:  plethora, repute, reputed, sack and wing.

I frequently read the phrase ‘a plethora of services’.  What the writer is referring to is the large number of services and packages available to the prospective client.  Plethora does mean lots of, or abundance, that is true; but it carries with it the meaning of overabundance, excess, glut and surplus (these are some of its synonyms).  This subtle change in meaning from abundance to surplus makes it an inappropriate word to use.  In the English language we have some better words to use which mean in our collection, or inventory, our available list of services, packages, etc.  These words are repertoire, collection, selection, gamut, range or inventory.  Some of these words would be better suited to a ‘full selection of services’.  Additionally, plethora is a seldom used word and your audience may not even know what it means; so leave it alone.

Repute or reputed are another two words that are misused.  I often read ‘a reputed company’.  My response is, “What is its repute, good or bad?”  The English word, ‘repute’, is a noun that means reputation.  One can have a good or a bad reputation.  The English word ‘reputed’ is an adjective that means ‘generally considered or reckoned’.  So, to put this in context, “A sloth is reputed to be lazy, but an ant is reputed to be industrious.”  I don’t believe that you want to use the term ‘a reputed company’.  What you do want to write is reputable, which is an English word that means a good reputation.

Another word that I often come across is ‘sack’.  It is not that the writers don’t know what the English word sack means, they do.  But what they are doing is using it in a tacky way.  I read phrases like ‘in your sack’ which seems to be used to express the idea that the services rendered to the client is added value to the client.  Using sack in this sense is not professional; it’s tacky, cheesy, just bad taste.  What you might want to try is some expression such as added value, certain, a sure thing, benefits to the client, etc and etc, but not a sack.  You are not writing about a sack full of grain, rice or flour.  The only time you might want to write sack in your content articles is when you are doing a website or promotion for an agriculture related industry, such as a flour mill or a grain elevator.

The fifth one I want to address in this article is the English word ‘wings’.  I read phrases like, ‘give wings to businesses.  In the English language, as in any other language, even though the meaning might be static, it is not always appropriate to use the word in every situation.  If you are writing for a professional, technical online company, then you don’t want to use the word wing.  Again, it’s cheesy, not professional.  Rather write phrases or words such as:  your business’s growth will soar to unprecedented heights, escalate, increase rapidly, rocket, spiral, shoot-up, mushroom, climb to the zenith; shoot to the sky, etc.

Whether it’s spoken English or the written word, make good use of your dictionaries and thesauruses.  Even Word has a decent thesaurus.  If you use the English words appropriately; your career will soar skyward.

If you still don’t know if the word is appropriate or not, write a comment on this blog and you will be sure to get an answer to your questions.

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