Gather ‘round the campfire, children. It’s time to share stories that are so scary, so utterly terrifying, so bloodcurdling-ly HORRIFYING that you won’t be able to sleep at night.
Just kidding. This blog is only going to be kinda irksome. If you’re a writer or grammar nerd, it’ll be super aggravating. Consider this your warning.
Why are we putting ourselves — and you — through this hell? Because we need to set the record straight about these misused words and phrases. We’ve seen them too many times, and we’ve had enough.
Correct form: Due diligence
You might think that “do diligence” means to do something with great effort or persistence, but you’d be wrong. To give something “due diligence” means to give it the proper care and research it deserves. It’s a legal term that means you’ll investigate a person or company before doing business with them.
Flush it out
Correct form: Flesh it out
If you’re using this phrase to mean “make an idea fuller, more complete, or more substantial,” use “flesh,” not “flush.” To “flush it out” is a hunting term that means to bring something out in the open. Or… like… down a toilet. You might remember the difference by thinking of a sketch artist filling in an outline of a person. They have the start of a drawing and then they flesh it out.
For all intensive purposes
Correct form: For all intents and purposes
This is a super old English phrase which means “officially” or “effectively.” When used correctly, of course. There’s no such thing as intensive purposes, as far as we know.
Correct form: Regardless
Our girl Gretchen Wieners let us down with this one.
“Irregardless” might be a mashup of “regardless” and “irrespective.” There’s controversy over whether irregardless is an official word (it’s a dictionary that shall remain nameless) but we’re throwing our two cents in and saying no. It’s not.
Correct form: Depends on what you’re saying
“Its” is a possessive term that means something belongs to something else. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” Not sure if you’re using them correctly? Spell out “it is” and see if your sentence makes sense. If it does, use “it’s.” If it doesn’t, use “its.”
Right: The witch’s cat lost its way.
Wrong: The witch’s cat lost it’s way. (“The witch’s cat lost it is way” doesn’t make sense.)
Right: It’s time to cast a spell. (“It is time to cast a spell” makes sense.)
Wrong: Its time to cast a spell.
Nip it in the butt
Correct form: Nip it in the bud
Lololol butts. Alright, now that we’ve composed ourselves, let’s look at this phrase. To nip something in the bud means to stop, destroy, or handle something at an early stage. Think of pruning a flower bud early to stop it from growing.
One in the same
Correct form: One and the same
What?! No! If you take “one in the same” literally, that would mean that “one” is inside “the same.” That doesn’t make any freaking sense. The correct phrase means that two separate things are actually the same thing or person.
Piece of mind
Correct form: Peace of mind
When something brings you “peace of mind,” it’s putting your mind at ease. If something brings you “piece of mind,” that means you’re…getting parts of a brain? Very scary, but also very wrong.
Should of, would of, could of
Correct form: Should have, would have, could have
Jess here! This is one of my biggest pet peeves on the list, and I couldn’t tell you why. If you use one of these in a conversation with me, just know that this is what I look like.
If you can’t remember the correct form, use “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” instead. Or look at those contractions to remember that it’s “HAVE,” not “OF.” “Of” is not a verb, so don’t use it like one.
Correct form: Sneak peek
Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but we’ve seen this incorrect phrase EVERYWHERE LATELY. “Peak” is a mountain top. “Peek” means a quick look.
For the love of god, please double-check that you’ve spelled it right before you make a graphic for your new launch or offer. “Sneak peak” hurts to look at.
Statue of limitations
Correct form: Statute of limitations
A statute is a written law enacted by a branch of government. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a period of time during which you can take legal action or file a lawsuit. What the hell is a “statue of limitations,” then? NOTHING.
Correct form: Supposedly
Latasha here! Here’s another case of mispronunciation, but there’s no controversy over “supposably” being a word. You get a pass if you’re still learning English as a small child or non-native speaker. Otherwise, just…no. The only time you MAY want to use this word is when you want to watch me sag in total disappointment.
Correct form: Depends on what you’re saying
“They’re,” or “They are” is a subject and verb. As in, “They’re going to buy pumpkins for Halloween.”
“Their” is a possessive pronoun. As in, “Wow, their pumpkins are huge!”
“There” is an adverb that refers to a location. (It has the word “here” in it to help you remember.) As in, “Look at those giant ass pumpkins over there! See them? RIGHT THERE!”
Bet you didn’t know Latasha was a nanny for decade, did’ya? When she would teach her kiddos there/their/they’re, she broke it down like this:
There – [t]here is a location
Their – the[i]r is something they have
They’re – they are
Okay, that’s enough
We could go on, but we’re done torturing everyone, including ourselves.
Did we check off all the embarrassingly used idioms off your list? Did we miss one that you can’t stand to see misused? Would you rather hand off writing and editing and grammar checking to the pros? Then let’s talk.