Writing Tips : 5 Common Misused Words and Expressions

Do-not-think-it-meansThe English language is complex and tricky to grasp. With tons of word variations, slang, and new phrases being coined every year, a person can have a tough time keeping up with it. Quite often, we see people using expressions, or words, incorrectly.

I thought today, we could go through some of these words and expressions. I will be using what I know, along with a piece out of William Strunk. Jr, and J.B White’s : The Elements of Style, Fourth edition.

Elements of Style is a terrific read for both young and old writers, and has been around since the 1930’s. In sharing one of their one of their tips with you, I hope that you will be inspired to purchase it yourself.

Let’s begin.

I could care less :  I’ll be honest, you will also find this in Elements of Style, but this is a misused phrase I pondered long before I read William Strunk’s take on it. You hear this, I think, more than you see it written, but it is still an annoying, and quite a common English mistake.

Saying, ‘I could care less’ means that you can care less, which defeats the purpose of the statement (unless you’re talking about something you actually care about).

Also, if you put the two words ‘care’ and ‘less’ together, you come up with a completely different meaning. ‘I could careless’, for one, is incomplete. Completing it, it should look/sound like : ‘I could be careless’, which changes the statement to meaning reckless, clumsy, or perhaps impulsive.

Similarly, writing ‘I couldn’t careless’ is also incomplete for the same reason, and should be either omitted or changed.

‘I couldn’t care less’ is always the proper term when discussing topics in which you have no care, or in situations that don’t matter to the subject of your writing.

In other words, use it when you simply don’t give a damn.

I don't care

For all intensive purposes: I hope you can already see this is wrong when spelled out, but in case you can’t, the correct phrase is : For all intents and purposes.

By writing/saying ‘intensive purposes’ you are implying that the purpose itself is intense, and there are much clearer ways to present this. This phrase is so commonly misused I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve heard it completely out of context many times, so let’s clear this up. ‘For all intents and purposes’, is meant to be used to help describe plans for an event, holiday, etc.

Example:  For all intents and purposes, Halloween will be on a Saturday this year. (Also a true and awesome fact, if you’re reading this in 2015.)

Use ‘For all intents and purposes.’ and avoid placing the word, ‘intensive’ , in there. Your purpose may not be intense, and if it is, there are better ways to convey it.

Irregardless – Say/write regardless. Irregardless is redundant, as it means to have regard, rather than to be without it. One of those double-negatives we all know and love.

Example : Regardless of their countless shots on net, the team couldn’t seem to score a single goal.

Used incorrectly : Irregardless of their countless shots on net, the team couldn’t seem to score a single goal.

Irregardless (though it is not recommended), if it was used correctly: (Irregardless) to the current situation, we need to devise a new strategy.  (In regards to the current..)

See how that looks? Even without highlighting the differences, a person can spot the mistake easily. If used correctly, irregardless can leave the your audience (not to mention critics) scratching their heads at the word. Since this mistake has been debated for over a century, people may know what you’re saying, but that doesn’t mean it has to be said incorrectly. Most don’t even consider irregardless a word, but since so many people use it, I thought it would be a useful point to bring up.


Affect, Effect: Put simply, affect means influence; effect means a result.

Example of affect used correctly: Small town life had an affect on his personality.

Example of effect used correctly: Carbon emissions and water pollution, are found to have negative effects on our climate.

Or, without the plural : One side-effect of the medicine, was drowsiness.


As I stated earlier, I will be pulling one misused word from The Elements of Style. I hope you find it insightful, and I hope it leads you to purchasing the book. It’s a necessary handbook, if you’re a writer.

‘Flammable. An oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word, meaning “combustible”, is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- , and think the word means “not combustible.” For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosives are now marked FLAMMABLE. Unless you are operating such a truck, and hence are concerned with the safety of children and illiterates, use inflammable.‘ – William Strunk Jr. and E.B White: The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, Page 47, Paragraph 6.

I found this one the most entertaining, so I thought I’d share it. There are hundreds of great tips within that book, and no excuse not to buy it. It’s short, sells for around ten dollars (that’s what I paid for mine), and is worth every penny; ten-fold.



I hope you found these tips useful. If you liked this article, let me know in the comments below, or by hitting the ‘Like’ button. Also, share the article with friends, family, and writers. There’s no reason we can’t speak, or write, properly. Sharing information is the most vital step in teaching people how to write, read, and learn. So share, and be encouraged to write your own article on writing, or whatever passion holds you.

Most importantly : Never Stop Writing/ Never Stop Learning

Adam Gainer



5 thoughts on “Writing Tips : 5 Common Misused Words and Expressions

  1. Hello,
    I have found that when under pressure, such as writing 50000 words in a month for NaNoWriMo, the propensity to make the type of mistakes that you have highlighted is ten fold. While my grammar needs work, and editing is painful anyway; my spelling is usually fairly good. For me, and I know this statement will not be popular; NaNowWriMo isn’t about creativity, it is about making a habit. Having a tool, such as the book you promote here, is excellent. Have as many writing, construction, and editing books in your toolbox as you can is fantastic. But even the most competent writer will make gaffes when under pressure. I am finding your posts very helpful, So from me and all want to be writers; thank you. P.S. if you know of a book that can make me have an editors brain please post it here or leave me a title…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, it’s awesome to hear that the blogs are helping people. You’re very welcome for the help, and I will be sure to keep posting.

      As for books on editing, there are hundreds (probably thousands) so I have two sure bets that will help evolve your writing, and some advice.

      The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B White, and Stephen King’s: On Writing, A Memoir of the craft, are two great books for keeping your writing tight, and concise.
      As for regular rules of grammar, such as punctuation. etc, I normally browse the net if I find I’m questioning what I’m doing. I do have another handbook, titled: The Essentials of English, Fifth Edition, which was printed by Barron’s, but I find the tips inside of it are generally the same as what I find online.
      My advice to you is to use Google, and research, as well as find books on the subjects you’re personally questioning on the craft. There’s tons to be said on the subject.
      Also, while writing, if something doesn’t look right, do diligence, and take five minutes to find out it if it’s correct, or isn’t. If it is, and still looks wrong, try rephrasing, and see if you can find something better. Usually the simpler, bolder statement is best.
      If you’d like me to write a blog on common editing mistakes, let me know. I know I’ve made a ton myself, and could probably publish it as next weeks blog. There are also tons of viable sources on the internet, as long as your sure to cross-reference articles so you’re getting a well-rounded perspective. Remember, Google is your friend.
      Keep in mind, that there’s no shame in being careful with your grammar, and that double checking simple rules isn’t an amateur thing to do, but in fact, it’s poor form not to.

      I wish you luck in your writing, Ellen, and thank you again for your kind comment. It’s awesome to hear that these are helping, and I will continue on with them for as long as I can.

      Thanks for reading, and never stop writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would really like a post on common editing mistakes. I have two books about editing, but so long winded and contradictory. Also I am English from the U.K. and the differences between U.S.A. English and U.K. Well, they may as well be two languages. Thank you again.


      • I can make it happen. Thanks for your input Ellen. I have come across that issue myself, with the two different languages. That would likely be another post all together, but it’s another I’m interested in writing.

        You’re quite welcome. Have an awesome night.

        Liked by 1 person

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