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.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Or just ?
    or Unmapped.

    Conversely, if you are looking for an accountant, a "charted accountant" probably isn't someone you want looking after your finances - unless you want the prestige of having Kenny G doing your taxes.

    I love the Unchartered series!

    Anyone who makes that mistake clearly doesn't know the language well enough. The words 'charted' and 'chartered' have very different meanings even though there is an historic connection. This is pretty basic English grammar for anyone with a reasonable education.

    Also, 'sort after' is not a thing, estate agents! It's 'sought after'. (I'll leave the draws/drawers distinction alone for now)

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