10 Phrases to Purge From Your Speech & Writing

Word Savvy

The following is excerpted from Word Savvy by Nancy Ragno, recently released by Writer’s Digest Books.


The following mistakes occur so often that they have come to sound and look correct. Undoubtedly, you will recognize some entries as known errors, but others may give you pause: “Is that an error? I didn’t realize that.”

Since the list is a manageable size, a brief scan will quickly tell you what you need to learn. Show your superior word savvy. Purge the following offenders from your speech and your writing.

1. Alot

Not a word. Instead, use two separate words: a lot. A lot means “a large number or amount; to a great degree or extent.”

2. Alright

Not a word. Write it as two words: all right. Because all right is commonly spoken as one word, it is mistakenly written that way. All right means “very well, okay, without a doubt.”

CORRECT: After the storm, we checked the property to make sure everything was all right.

3. By the power invested in me

The correct phrase is by the power vested in me. Invested usually refers to financial transactions. Vested means “bestowed on; conferred on.”

INCORRECT: By the power invested in me by the State of New Jersey …

CORRECT: By the power vested in me by the State of New Jersey …

4. Could care less

The correct phrase is could not care less or couldn’t care less.

INCORRECT: I could care less about ice hockey.

This is illogical. It means that the speaker cares about ice hockey but possibly could care less about it.

CORRECT: I am not at all interested in ice hockey and couldn’t care less about it.

5. Could of

The correct expression is could have.

INCORRECT: I could of danced all night!

CORRECT: I could have danced all night.

6. Final ultimatum

This phrase is redundant since ultimatum encompasses the meaning “final.” Use ultimatum by itself, without a modifier. Ultimatum means “a final statement of terms; one’s last word on a subject.”

7. For all intensive purposes

The correct phrase is for all intents and purposes. It means “for all practical purposes; in effect.”

CORRECT: These unsold items from our garage sale are, for all intents and purposes, useless.

8. Heart-wrenching

Not a word. It may have originated by mistakenly connecting it to the similar word gut-wrenching. The correct word is heartrending. Heartrending means “inciting anguish, arousing deep sympathy; extremely moving.”

CORRECT: The Derby opened with a heartrending rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home.”

9. Hone in on

The correct phrase is home in on. It means “to aim at a target” (as a homing pigeon aims at its home). In contrast, to hone means “to sharpen” (as you would hone a blade to sharpen it).

CORRECT: Police are homing in on the robbery suspect.

10. Irregardless

Not a standard word. Instead, use regardless. Regardless means “in spite of; without regard for.”

CORRECT: I must have that ring regardless of its cost.

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Posted in Guest Post, Writing Advice.

Nancy Ragno earned her master's at New York University and is a former teacher, lecturer, and textbook author.

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