Be Careful of These Misused Expressions – Ten More

It seems there are always ten more and ten more. I could go on for quite a long time, listing misused words and phrases. Don’t worry. I’m not being judgmental. Many people misuse these expressions all the time. Even news anchors come out with these mistakes.

Usually, my feeling is that it’s your right to talk and write any way you want, but if you publish it, then it should be correct.

Here are ten more expressions that many people use incorrectly.

  1. fortuitous – This does not necessarily mean fortunate or lucky. It refers to something (usually a good thing) that happens by chance or by accident, not by design. The distinction is fine, but take care when you use this word.
  2. kind of/sort of – These expressions should only be used in familiar writing styles, where they are used to replace “rather” or “something like.” More extreme misuses (such as “kinda” and “sorta”) leave me shuddering, but I have suffered through novels that use these expressions throughout. I will concede that in rare cases, a character may use “kinda” and “sorta” in dialogue, but in narrative sections of the text they are not good form. Save your use of kind of/sort of for when you mean a type or variety of something.
  3. less/fewer – Use less for quantity  and fewer for a number.  e.g. We have less money, but we have fewer dollars. We have less rain because fewer raindrops fell.
  4. amount/number – Use amount for quantity, and number for something that is potentially countable. e.g. The number of people at the concert was huge, but so was the amount of garbage they left behind.
  5. irregardless – Not a word. The negative (less) is already in the suffix of the word “regardless.” The association with words such as irregular and irresponsible could be the cause of some of the confusion.
  6. personally – Not needed in most cases. Just leave it out. It might be used to differentiate between being somewhere in person, as opposed to being there virtually (on the Internet), but in general use, it is often repetitive and serves little purpose.
  7. interesting – This is not an interesting word unless you make it so by adding details to tell why.
  8. true fact – A fact is something verifiable, so to say that something is a true fact is redundant. All facts are true; otherwise they are not facts.
  9. as good as – Avoid dropping the second “as.” The expression is incomplete without it. Wrong: She’s as good or better than me in tennis. Right: She’s as good as or better than me in tennis.
  10. point in time – Don’t use this expression. It means nothing. There is no “point” in time. it is continually passing by.


So now you know.



Ten Misused Expressions

There are a lot more than ten misused expressions, but we don’t want to be on overload, so here are some randomly picked misused words or expressions. You may notice that some are repeated from other posts, but that is only because I keep seeing those words misused and the reminder bears repeating.

Blah, blah, blah….

Like, you know….

  1. all right – This is the correct spelling. “Alright” is a variant and not generally accepted as correct. Please try to avoid using “alright.”
  2. everyday/every day – “Everyday” (spelled as one word) means ordinary, or usual.  “Every day” (spelled as two separate words) means each day.
  3. as to whether – This is just wordy. You don’t need “as to.” Simply say “whether.”
  4. data, strata, phenomena, media – These are plurals of “datum, stratum, phenomenon, medium.” So the data “are”; not the data “is.”
  5. hopefully – In most cases, this is misused. It means to do something in a hopeful frame of mind. Most likely what you mean to say is “I hope,” or “it is to be hoped.” Be careful with “hopefully.” In most cases it is better left out.
  6. inside of/outside of – When you are referring to a location, leave out “of.” If you mean a time frame (inside of two minutes), it is okay to leave the “of” in place.
  7. like – Do not use “like” in place of “as.” Usually if it is before a phrase or clause, you should be using “as.” (“She ran like her life depended on it,” should be “She ran as if her life depended on it.”) Also, do not insert this word as a meaningless introduction to an adjective  (She was like devastated to hear the way I speak, throwing “like” into my podcast over 400 times). By the way, in a one-hour podcast filled with many uses of “like,” I began counting  and was horrified to find that the person had used 400+ likes an hour. Isn’t that well over the speed limit?
  8. nice – Avoid this tired, vague word.
  9. most – do not use this word instead of “almost.” “Most everyone” should be “almost everyone.”
  10. the foreseeable future – Avoid using this expression. The future is NOT foreseeable; at least not yet.

So blah, blah, blah … Now, you know….

(👍 ͡❛ ͜ʖ ͡❛)👍

Do You Know About Elmore Leonard?

It is just a couple of days after what would have been Elmore Leonard’s 97th birthday.  This American author was born Oct. 11, 1925 and died Aug. 20, 2013.

He was a prolific writer, but he was concerned more with quality than quantity. Somehow he managed to do both. He wrote many novels, screenplays, short stories, and many other types of publications.

Elmore Leonard at the Peabody Awards in 2011. Photo from Wikipedia.

Here are his Ten Rules for Good Writing, published in the New York Times.

  1. Never open a book with weather.

  2. Avoid prologues.

  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said,”…he admonished gravely.

  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Elmore said, “My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle.”

The Clipping Gallery

Further to the recent post about jargon,  I want to suggest a solution for writers who suspect they have too much verbiage in their first draft, but don’t know what to do about it.

Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself as you read a section over, but more likely one of your critiquers noticed it, and pointed it out as unnecessarily long or boring, or both. You read the wordy section again and try to find all kinds of excuses for keeping it as it is. Maybe you even realize that it is a bit repetitious or unnecessarily dull, but you like the anecdote it relates (even if it is long and wordy). You simply don’t want to let it go.

Ask yourself:

Does keeping it move the story along?

Does it provide some essential information the reader needs to know?

Does it increase the reader’s empathy for a character?

Does it foreshadow a possible crisis?

Does it increase the tension by dropping a worrisome clue of something that may interfere with the hoped for solution?

If the paragraph does none of the above, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Will the story suffer if I remove it?” If the section is not critical to the story, and others have mentioned that it drags the story down, perhaps you should consider making some changes.

I think I have a solution.

A friend in a critiquing group suggested that in a case like this it is good to make a folder on your computer where you can save this precious writing that you have such a hard time giving up. Call it “Clipping Gallery” (or some other name that you will quickly associate with this editing gimmick). Then copy and cut the wordy section out of your “work in progress”  (WIP). Paste this wordy section into a Word file and save it to your Clipping Gallery. You may want to have sub-folders if you have several works in progress.

Now that the questionable writing is saved in a file where you can always retrieve it and put it back into your WIP, you can relax. Your precious writing is not lost and you can change your mind any time and go back to the original version of your WIP.

I’ve agonized over losing all that perfect writing I did. Maybe I had some special turns of phrase that came out  exactly as I wanted, and I simply did not want to let go of them. So what if they were a bit wearisome to the reader?

But once I cut those wordy sections and put them in my clipping gallery, where I could retrieve them any time I wanted, I felt better. The hard work that some others found boring, but I was so attached to, would be safe and available to me any time I wanted it. And, surprise, surprise, the WIP worked just fine without the parts I had removed. I just had to be sure the transitioning was in place where I had removed sections.

Many times, I’ve put sections of my writing into the clipping gallery. Do you know how many times I’ve taken something out of the gallery and put it back into the WIP?


But it’s still there if I want it.

After a while, when I come to my senses, I realize I really don’t want or need the removed part anymore and I’m okay with it.





Why use ten words when two will do? We don’t want to tire the reader.

The long way:

He spends his spare time skinning animals and making replicas of them by stretching their hides over a frame.

The more sensible way:

His hobby is taxidermy.

Instead of:

He got out the game board with the black and white squares.

Just say:

He got out the checkerboard.

Instead of:

Could you please hand me one of those small rods for stirring the drinks?

Just say:

Could you pass me a swizzle stick?

If you know what you are trying to say, why give the long-winded definition of it? Just use the word.


In terms of organization it was a shambles, but in terms of program content it was good.

Less wordy:

The organization was a shambles but the program content was good.

In many cases, there is no need for “in terms of.”


He is the person who is in charge of the meeting.

Less wordy:

He is in charge of the meeting.

No need for “the person who.”

Sometimes a word can replace a whole phrase:

She had a reservation for the ferry that goes from Comox to Powell River.

She had a reservation for the Comox – Powell River ferry.

*** Keep in mind that more is not always better, especially with words.