The 9 most commonly misused words and phrases

Louis Dor
Sunday 11 September 2016 19:30

There is a dichotomy between a clichéd writing style and honing in on simplistic, pleasing writing.

Yes, that is an awful introduction, for a number of reasons.

Let's explain why: Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker explored the most common words and phrases people misuse in his book The Sense of Style.

He identified a number of common mistakes, some of which featured previously in this article (and probably throughout too).

Here are a few of our favourites:

1. Adverse

Means detrimental, not averse or disinclined.

For instance:

There were adverse conditions.


I'm adverse to that suggestion.

2. Cliché

This is a noun, not an adjective.

For instance:

Writers frequently used clichés.


This article is so clichéd.

3. Credible

This means believable and does not mean credulous or gullible.

For instance:

The manifesto was not credible.


The political party took advantage of credulous people.

4. Dichotomy

A dichotomy consists of two mutually exclusive alternatives and does not mean simply a difference.

For instance:

There is a dichotomy between even and odd numbers.


There is a dichotomy between chocolate bars and snacks containing nuts.

5. Enormity

This means...

extreme evil


very big.

6. Hone

This means to sharpen, not to surround or encroach upon.

For instance:

I am honing my writing skills.


I am honing in on my writing skills.

7. Noisome

This actually means...




8. Parameter

A variable, not a boundary or a limit.

For instance:

The weather forecast is based on certain environmental parameters.


I am working within the parameters of my budget.

9. Simplistic

This means naïve or overly simple, not pleasingly simple .

For instance:

The answer to my question was simplistic.


I'm looking for a solution that is simplistic.

Watch the full video, below:

More: Twelve incredibly British phrases the rest of the world doesn't understand

More: Here are 30 of the most bizarre phrases in the English language and what they actually mean