Misuse of Words Driving Me Crazy!

Of late, the news media has been driving me a bit batty with the various reporters misusing words either in their oral reporting or the blips crossing our screens. Do you, too, have a pet peeve when it comes to the misuse of words? 

For example the local FOX news outlet keeps reporting on the AMOUNT of people on the South Carolina beaches now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. When I was a journalism student (one of my college minors), we were taught that “amount” is an indefinite quantity (water, sand, grass, etc.) that cannot be counted. Whereas, “number” consists of a quantity of people or things that can be counted

Watching one of the Hallmark movies, Candace Cameron Bure’s character corrects one of the other minor characters who asks Bure if Bure is “anxious” to see her fiancé. Bure explains to the woman that “anxious” indicates concern or worry. “Eager” shows impatient desire.

We often hear stories of where a plane “nearly missed” hitting another plane on the runway. The problem with this phrase is if you “nearly missed” something, you collided with it. The correct phrase is a “near hit,” not a “near miss.”

The other day on the blip running across the bottom of the screen the story was about navel maneuvers off the coast of Florida. “Naval” refers to a navy and military ships. “Navel” refers to the “bellybutton.” 

Along the same lines was another story where the newscaster referred to the “ordnance” enacted by the Town Council regarding parking along certain center-city streets. The correct word is “ordinance,” which is a law enacted by a municipal body. “Ordnance” refers to military weapons and ammunition.

Then there was the news article on the premier of a particular movie being delayed. “Premier” means first in rank or leader. “Premiere” means first performance. 

One of the stories spoke of “prostrate cancer” in men. “Prostate” is the correct word in this context. “Prostate” refers to the prostate gland, part of the male reproductive system. “Prostrate” refers to lying down on the ground or on some other surface or to make helpless. 

One of the stories dealt with those going out before the “stay at home orders” were lifted. It said, “The teens said they would play basketball in the park irregardless of the danger of contacting the Covid-19 virus.” Irregardless is not considered standard English, regardless of how many times you hear or see it used. 

Many people confuse sometime and some time. Sometime (one word) means some unspecified time. Some time (2 words) means an unspecified quantity of time.

Likewise, maybe (one word) is an adverb meaning perhaps. May be (2 words) is a verb meaning perhaps.

Everyday is a single word adjective used to refer to days in general, without emphasizing any specific day. Every day used as two words emphasizes the individual day. [Hint! If you can substitute “each” for “every,” use “every day” as two words.]

Everyone refers to several or more people, but not to any one of them in particular. Every one is used when referring to an individual.

Everybody is used to make reference to several of many people. Every body references a specific body, such as a corpse, body of water, a corporation, etc.

Anyone refers to a group, but not to any specific person. Any one refers to an individual.

Any time is used exclusively as two words, not anytime. Also, alright is not standard English. Use all right

Anyway means in any case or regardless. Any way means a method, choice, or direction. Anyways is not standard English and should not be used. 

Use between when two people, places, or things are involved. Use among for three or more. 

I see this mistake all the time in romance novels. “They fell in love with one another at first sight.” Each other is used when two people, places, or things are involved. One another refers to three or more. Unless the author is writing about a “threesome,” the correct choice is “each other.” 




About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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18 Responses to Misuse of Words Driving Me Crazy!

  1. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    I LOVE this post. I’m always checking words to see if I have used them properly and still my betas find mistakes. My favorite from this list is naval and navel. Thanks. Jen

    • I laughed the other day when one of my editors left a message in the document that I should check the use of “on behalf of” and “in behalf of.” Little did she know there is a Post-It prominently displayed on my computer desk that tells me “on behalf of” means to act in place or as the agent of,” while “in behalf of” is for the benefit or or in the interest of. On that Post-It is also “convince” meaning to cause someone to believe and “persuade” meaning requiring an action or requesting an action. I know my faults.

  2. carolcork says:

    My pet peeve is the BBC insists on referring to peoples when it should be people.

    • I must watch the BBC news more carefully, Carol. Or, I should say, “listen” more carefully. I do not watch much TV. It is the background noise of my day.

  3. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    And then we have only/just, will/would/shall/should, believe/think/feel, bad/badly, despite/in spite of and more. I have to look at the rules every time and still I’m not always sure. Lis Batten put up a link to the forum some time ago to Anachronisms and Other Sins which give dates for some of the modern words we often use in Regency. I wonder if you’ve seen this. https://www.prismnet.com/~dierdorf/nono.html#anach And of course, no matter how much time I spend looking up things, I still make mistakes. Too bad I enjoy writing so much. LOL

  4. Jacey Bedford says:

    You said: ‘I see this mistake all the time in romance novels. “They fell in love with one another at first site.” Each other is used when two people, places, or things are involved. One another refers to three or more. Unless the author is writing about a “threesome,” the correct choice is “each other.” ‘
    You didn’t mention “first site” which presumably should be “first sight” – unless they are travelling from one site to the next, in which case it should be “at the first site.”

  5. Sharon Farrell says:

    And the new trend of using discrete instead of discreet, as if means the same but is more elevated in tone. Sigh…

    • I always considered “discrete” as individually separate or distinct.
      Meanwhile, “discreet” is being careful or circumspect in one’s speech or actions.
      I do understand some of the errors. My first novel went through 5 editors at different times in its production, and, several years later, the hero pulled the bell “chord” instead of “cord.” None of us caught the error. The eye reads what it expects to be there.

  6. Beatrice says:

    As a former linguistics major, I firmly believe language is our servant, not our master. WE can be the instrument of change here, and anyway I consider “irregardless” as tongue-in-cheek and amusing. In fact I am now firmly convinced “loose” has replaced “lose” as the correct spelling, as hardly anyone uses “lose” any more.
    However I do not allow the same latitude to “reign” used in place of ‘rein” when controlling or failing to control horses. No matter how little majestic the hero or heroine in these JAFF books is, those bits of leather will NEVER be sovereign over Darcy or Lizzy! Let’s stop this horsing around!
    Also I strongly dislike all the hyper-correct “Between you and I” type of errors. There’s nothing wrong with little old “me” after a preposition.
    We’re fortunate that nobody is perfect, and I suspect the site/sight and reign/rein errors are due to autocorrect and computer dictation programs. But still…

    • When it comes to “rein” and “reign,” Beatrice, I always dicker with myself in deciding which to use for “he presented her free…” rein or reign? In reality, I know it should be “rein”; yet, I can see a reason to use “reign” depending on the circumstances. Otherwise, I am with you on the matter.

  7. Lindsay Downs says:

    What a wonderful post on the misuse of the English language. For me, I get my news from the internet, either on my computer or smartphone (for dumbies). My pet peeve is the horrible grammar and when the news story isn’t edited. These people are supposed to be intelligent. Guess not.

    • One of the problems, Lindsay, is the lack of education regarding grammar. My son had a total of 6 weeks of instruction in grammatical correctness. That was in middle school. The remainder of his education in English was the study of literature. When I taught school, whether it was American Lit, World Lit, or British Lit, my students had daily lessons on grammar. How does one know not to split an infinitive, if one does not even know what an infinitive is? We all make mistakes, but we should strive not to do so.

  8. Ginna says:

    I see a lot of JAFF authors using “she” or “he”, when it should be “her” or “him”, and I can only suppose that they do so because they think it sounds ‘stuffy’ and therefore must be correct.
    And as Beatrice mentions above, so-and-so and I, instead of so-and-so and e.
    One of my personal ‘favorites’: alright.

    • I think you correct about some writer’s choosing to use the nominative case (she, he, I) when the objective case of the pronouns should be used. The problem comes from sentences such as “It is she.” This sentence is correct because “she” is a predicate nominative coming after the linking verb “is.” Most people would think the sentence should be “It is her.” They then decide to use “she” every time to sound educated, when they are really making a grammatical error.

  9. Barbara Monajem says:

    What a useful post. Thank you, Regina.

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