30 March 2017

The Trouble with Words

Just one incorrectly used word can call into question everything you’re saying, negatively affecting your message. Is it fair? Probably not. Does it really matter? Absolutely!

If you want to be heard, your audience has to trust that you know what you’re talking about, and that means using the right word. One wrong word can throw your credibility out the window. So, if you’re responsible for employee communications, you need to make sure your writing is accurate.

To help you, we created a list of some of the most commonly misused words.

1. Adverse and averse

adverse — adjective; bad or unfavorable, acting against
  The adverse effect of the stock market is beyond our control.

averse — adjective; feelings of dislike or distaste.
  I was averse to paying $7 for a mocha latte

2. Affect and effect

Verb form:

affect — to influence
  Vendor delays affected our live date.

effect — to accomplish something
  We effected wide-sweeping policy changes.

Use effect if you’re making it happen, and affect if you’re having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen.

Noun form:

Effect is almost always correct
  He was given 20 minutes to gather his personal effects. 

Affect refers to an emotional state
  Her affect was subdued. 

Unless you’re a psychiatrist, you really don’t have any reason to use affect as a noun.

3. Compliment and complement

compliment — to say something nice
  You can compliment your staff with praise.

complement — to add to, enhance, improve, complete, or bring close to perfection
  We have no job openings so we can’t complement your staff.

If your new app complements your website, you may get a number of compliments from viewers.

4. Fewer and less / number and amount

fewer — noun; use when you can actually count (fewer cups of coffee, fewer bowls of egg salad, fewer pencils, fewer sheets of paper)

less — noun; use if the item can’t be counted (less coffee, less egg salad, less paper)

You can count each cup, but not the coffee. You can count each bowl, but not the egg salad. You can count each pencil and each sheet of paper, but not the paper itself.

number — use when you can count what you’re talking about

amount — use if it can’t be counted

The number of cups of coffee the staff drinks directly increases with the amount of stress they’re under. (cups can be counted, stress cannot)

5. i.e., e.g.

i.e. — use for “in other words”
e.g. — use instead of “for example”

Now go forth and communicate with confidence!