More Misheard Expressions To Avoid In Your Writing

More Misheard Expressions To Avoid In Your Writing

Last September, we rounded up expressions which people get wrong when written down. Now we’re back with another collection of common errors that are spreading rapidly online and giving the Lifehacker Grammar And Spelling Police (GASP) heart attacks.

Picture by JD Hancock

As with our first collection, the focus here is on expressions that people have misheard and then written incorrectly. Many come from comments left on Lifehacker, and a few have also popped up in articles written by the Lifehacker US crew.

All are mistakes that should be avoided in writing which has any kind of professional context. It doesn’t matter too much if you misuse a phrase in a text message or blog comment, but making an elementary error in a work document can make you look foolish and untrustworthy. I’ve referred to the Macquarie Dictionary (as the most reputable source for Australian spelling) as an authority.

“Grand illusion”, not “grand allusion” or “grand delusion”

Don’t delude yourself by alluding to the wrong phrase. All else is illusion.

“The be-all and end-all”, not “the be-all to end-all”

Neatly defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as “the final and exclusive aim”. Note the “and”.

“Try not to be biased”, not “try not to be bias”

“Biased” is the adjectival form. Hence you would “try not to show bias” (or “try not to show a biased viewpoint”).

“Sound clichéd”, not “sound cliché”

Another -ed problem. While the word originates in French, it’s now integrated enough into English to take a regular -ed ending, which serves as the adjectival form. (You can use “hackneyed” instead to avoid any confusion or accent problems.)

“Sleight of hand”, not “slight on hand”

Sleight of hand is “skill in feats of jugglery or ledgerdemain” (per the Macquarie Dictionary, and proof that dictionary definitions don’t always make matters simpler). “Slight” has a bunch of meanings, but adding “on hand” after it will do nothing but confuse people. Having thinner hands probably won’t help if you do want to be a magician either.

“Reinforce”, not “re-enforce”

Whether it’s an idea or a castle’s defences, reinforcing is the relevant activity.

“Lacklustre”, not “lack luster”

As the Macquarie makes clear, this is one word, not two. US English adopts the spelling “lackluster”, but it’s still a single word.

Got any more examples to add to our collection? The comments await!

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


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