Grammar Tips: Seven Words You’re Probably Misusing

 

Dangit!  I am totally guilty of screwing up the phrase “he got his just desserts.”  It’s “deserts,” as in what one deserves.  It has nothing to do with sugary treats.  Drat!  According to Mignon Forgerty, author of “Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master” grammar is the elusive yet crucial verbal mistress–every one of us has a weak link.  Which one of the following makes you cringe?

 

Lose

It’s astonishing how many Internet commenters get this one wrong.  Rise above the crowd. Try to get this one right. It’s a low bar.
“Lose” means to be defeated or to misplace something, and “loose” means “not tight.” “Lose” is the older term: we get it from Old English. “Loose” didn’t appear until Middle English.

 

Literally

Yes, dictionaries include a definition of “literally” that makes it seem fine to say, “Smoke literally came out his ears when I told him I was leaving,” and linguists point out that “literally” has been widely used in this way for at least 100 years. But using “literally” that way still annoys a lot of people.  The true definition is used as a reference to a literary work.

Simplistic

I was chided for using this incorrectly in colleger and never forgot–because it can be quite insulting.  “Simplistic” means something is overly simplified or lacking something important. It has a negative connotation. Home decorating shows hosts should not describe a room they love as “simplistic.”
“Simple” can be good or bad. It means basic or easy. For example, you could compliment a room for having a simple, clean style or a gadget for being simple to use.  You can think of the “ic” on the end of “simplistic” as meaning “Ick, something is missing!”

Begs the Question

“Begs the question” comes from formal logic. When you beg the question, you make a conclusion based on a premise that lacks support. The premise can be independent from the conclusion or, in a simpler form, the premise can be just a circular restatement of the conclusion.  “Begs the question” does not mean “raises the question,” even though that’s the way you’re  more likely to see it used.

Waiting With Bated Breath

You wait with bated breath, not baited breath.  Along with many other words, Shakespeare coined “bated” (or at least he was the first person to put the word on a piece of paper that survived to this day). “Bated” is a form of “abate,” which means “to diminish, beat down, or reduce.” So when you’re waiting with bated breath, you’re so eager, anxious, excited, or frightened that you’re almost holding your breath.

Anniversary

An anniversary is supposed to be something that happens once a year. The Latin root “annus”  means “year,” after all.
Nevertheless, although the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t include any examples of “anniversary” being used to talk about anything other than annual events, anyone who’s been around an American high school will certainly have heard kids talking about their monthly relationship milestones in terms of an “anniversary.” It’s common, but it’s just not right.
Read more from the excellent Huffington Post article here.
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