Commonly misused words – part 2

Here’s the thing with language—if enough people get something wrong often enough, evolution is triggered. Suddenly you have brand new words or words with additional or new meanings.

Take ‘shit’, for example. Ten years ago, this humble word meant one thing (and I think we all know what that was). Fast forward to 2018 and it now serves as an alternative for words like “stuff” and “nonsense”. It can also mean something is awesome, which is the complete opposite of what it originally meant.

Weird, right?

Although I do love a bit of language evolution, I’m also a stickler for using words in their correct context, which often means biting my tongue during conversations or scribbling over secondhand copy with a red pen.  Misusing words has the potential not make you look silly and can cause confusion.

Some of my fellow writers tossed a couple more misused words my way after my initial post on the subject, so I thought it was time for a part two.

Put your glasses on, love. We’re going in…


Let’s kick off with a tricky one, shall we? Imply and infer are particularly wily because they have similar meanings.

Imply: hinting at something without saying it outright.

Are you implying that I’m a moron?

Infer: the conclusion you come to based on an indirect hint. You can think of this as the reply to someone implying something.

From this blog post, we can infer that a lot of people get their words twisted up.



Here’s a whoopsie that crops up in conversation all the time. In my experience, it tends to be a colloquial mix up rather than a written one. Still, no one wants to look like a muppet, do they?

These two words tend to be swapped out interchangeably in a rather random way, so here’s break down of each:

Generally: this word is used to indicate something which is true in most cases or overall.

I generally don’t wear underpants on a Tuesday.

Genuinely: this is brought into play when you want to convey that something is truthful and sincere.

I genuinely thought I was going to get my ass kicked.



When you say them out loud, these two words sound remarkably similar, so it’s understandable that people get them muddled up. Lemme throw some light onto the situation:

Accept: this is a verb which means “to say yes” or to receive.

I will accept beer as payment

Except: this is both a preposition and a conjunction. It means “to exclude”.

I like everyone except you.



These two words are both verbs and are closely related. Kinda like twins—you know they’re separate entities but you can’t help thinking of them as one. Listen up and learn the difference.

Presume: to come to a conclusion based on a smattering of evidence.  

There are a lot of empty beer bottles here. Can I presume you partied hard last night?

Assume: to come to a conclusion without any evidence at all.

I assume my neighbour is a satanist.



The difference here isn’t just the spelling, my friend. This discrepancy runs much deeper!

Complement: an addition that enhances the quality of something or extra additions to make up the numbers of something.

This jam really complements the peanut butter

Great, now we have a full complement of players for laser quest!

Compliment: to say something nice or a delightful freebie

I’m going to steal as many complimentary toiletries as I can.

I know he fancies me because he always pays me compliments.


Have you got any word quandaries that I’ve missed? Anything you’d like me to elaborate on? Sling a comment below or call me out on Twitter @EJCownley and let’s hash it out.

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