GrammarPhile Blog

Often-Confused Words

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Oct 5, 2010 4:30:00 AM

Well, the words aren't confused, but sometimes people who use them are. Our job today is to help you avoid confusing the following words, some of which we've seen even in documents processed by our editors THIS VERY DAY!

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Topics: misused words

Avoid Confusing Words When Writing for Business

Posted by Conni Eversull   Jul 19, 2010 4:30:00 AM

The goal of this week's post is to help you become a better business writer. The better your writing, the greater your chances of success. It's just a fact of life. Sure, there are some exceptions to every rule. But why not better your chances by avoiding the following common confusions?

So; so that. So as a conjunction means "therefore"; so that means "in order that."
  • The work is now finished, so you can all go home.
  • Please finish what you are doing so that we can all go home.
Individual; party; person; people. Use individual to refer to someone whom you wish to distinguish from a larger group of people.
  • We wish to honor those individuals who had the courage to serve their country in its time of great need.
Use party only to refer to someone involved in a legal proceeding.
  • All the parties to the original agreement must sign the attached amendment.
Use person to refer to a human being in all other contexts.
  • Please tell me the name of the person in charge of your water ski tournament.
If reference is made to more than one person, the term people usually sounds more natural than the plural form persons. In any event, always use people when referring to a large group.
  • If you like, I can send you a list of all the people in our club who will be skiing in the tournament.
Doubt that; doubt whether. Use doubt that in negative statements and in questions. Use doubt whether in all other cases.
  • We do not doubt that she is capable. (Negative statement.)
  • Does anyone doubt that the check was mailed? (Question.)
  • I doubt whether I can go.
Everyday; every day. As one word, everyday is an adjective. Don't use it for each day.
  • You'll soon master the everyday (ordinary) routine of the job.
  • He has skied every day (each day) this week.
Fiscal; financial. The adjective fiscal (as in fiscal year or FY) can be used to refer to all types of financial matters--those of governments and private businesses. However, with the exception of fiscal year, it is better to use fiscal only in connection with government matters and to use financial in all other situations.
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Topics: misused words, business writing

More Mis-Used Words in Business Writing

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Apr 20, 2010 5:00:00 AM

Here are more words that business writers often confuse. Check your writing to be sure you don't fall into word confusion. 

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Topics: errors, misused words, business writing

Words That Mean the Opposite of What You Might Think

Posted by Gregory Stepanich   Oct 20, 2009 4:00:00 AM

Writing late last month in the New York Times Magazine, the journalist Jack Rosenthal came up with a good term of art to describe a word that means the opposite of what a typical user might think it means: phantonym.

This is a nifty little neologism, and here is Rosenthal's piece (link to:, which offers numerous useful examples. Among them: enervated, which means "weakened," not "energized," and fortuitous, which means "by chance," not "fortunately." Rosenthal cites seven others: fulsome, noisome, enormity, disinterested, penultimate, presently and restive.

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Topics: misused words, word meaning

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