5 common linguistic missteps

Words can be misused in a variety of ways, as illustrated in the following
examples, each followed by an explanatory discussion and a revision.

1. A massive diffused bomb sat in the middle of the courtyard.

One form of erroneous word usage is use of a similar-sounding word, as in
the case of effect in place of affect, or as shown in
this example.

Instead, it should read: “A massive defused bomb sat in the middle
of the courtyard.”

2. Passwords can be harvested from keystroke loggers and other malware
on publically accessible computers.

Another error is the misspelling of an inflected ending, as with extention instead of extension, or the misspelled
adverbial form of public:

Corrected version: “Passwords can be harvested from keystroke loggers and
other malware on publicly accessible computers.”

[FREE GUIDE: 10 punctuation essentials]

3. This policy engenders an altruistic comradery.

A third category of mistakes is to misspell a word adopted from another
language based on how it “should” be spelled analogously with established
English words—for example, “per say” in place of “per se” or how the last
word in the above sentence was spelled.

Rendered properly: “This policy engenders an altruistic camaraderie.”

4. A collaborative approach is comprised of four stages.

This sentence deploys the reference to the whole before that of the parts,
which is correct when comprise is concerned, but “is comprised
of,” though it has an entry in the dictionary, is not considered proper

The technically correct wording is, “A collaborative approach comprises four primary stage gates,” but in this case (and many
others), “consists of” works just as well or even better: “A collaborative
approach consists of four stages.”

5. Economic conditions in markets we currently serve may significantly
restrict growth opportunities for our organization.

Some adjectives and adverbs are almost always extraneous. For example, different, as when it appears in such phrases as “several
different factors,” is already implied in the reference to a plurality of
factors, and a current state is generally understood, through use of
present tense, in such statements as, “Economic conditions in markets we serve may significantly restrict growth opportunities for our
organization.” (Redundancy is not an error, but it is annoying enough to
earn honorary error status and therefore inclusion in this post.)

A version of this post first ran on

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