These Uncharted Waters Have Not Been Chartered

Uncharted waters is a common phrase used to describe unfamiliar territory. Don’t make the mistake of writing unchartered waters instead.

Harbour picture from Shutterstock

This error is understandable: in spoken English, the two phrases sound essentially identical, unless you go out of your way to enunciate carefully. However, unchartered waters makes no sense: it means, roughly, “waters that haven’t been hired”. What you want to say is “waters that haven’t been mapped”.

If you can’t reliably distinguish between the two, choose a different phrase like “unknown areas” instead. Accuracy matters.

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