Commonly Misused Phrases That Will Make You Sound Unprofessional

It’s easy to fall into language traps that are all around us. And, of course, there’s something to be said for the ever-changing nature of common terms and phrases. After all, the dictionary is an ever-evolving entity that adds phrases and words all the time to reflect common usage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t at least strive for impeccable speech by understanding the best – or most commonly accepted – ways of saying certain words and phrases. Little tweaks in your language can help convey that you understand exactly what phrase you’re saying and are using it properly. Plus, if you’re writing an email or typing a response – and let’s be honest, so much communication that happens these days happens online – you’ll stay on top of using the right spelling and phrasing. And, hopefully, understanding the full context of where these common phrases come from

Keep in mind, too, that in some of these common phrases you won’t be able to hear the difference between the so-called “right” and “wrong” versions. And sometimes the “wrong” way to say something still has a perfectly legitimate meaning, even if it’s not the feeling you’re going for in that conversation.

Any advantage you can give yourself in the professional world, including use of proper language and phrases, can be really beneficial in your life and career. So, we researched common words and phrases that people too often get wrong. There’s a good chance you already know some of these, especially if you’re the type of person who is interested in language. But in case you want a quick refresher, here you go.

“For all intensive purposes” versus “For all intents and purposes”

Intensive indicates that something is powerful and focused. If you’re discussing an intensive purpose, you’re simply indicating one focused purpose, or perhaps a few very focused purposes. The more common phrases, for all intents and purposes, indicates that something is coming from more or less all important angles or opinions. So for all intents and purposes, all intensive purposes is a usually the wrong thing to say.

“I could care less” versus “I couldn’t care less”
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This is an extremely commonly misused phrase. While most people love to throw out that they “could care less” in an attempt to show how little they care about an issue, they’re actually communicating the opposite of the usual phrase’s intention. When you stop to think about what you’re saying, “could care less” means you not only care, but you care enough that you would have the ability to care less if you wanted to. If you’re trying to convey apathy, saying “I couldn’t care less” is much more accurate.

“One in the same” versus “One and the same”
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When you and a friend are discussing two different instances that you realize happened with the same person, you’re discussing one and the same person. It’s hard to determine what one in the same thing might mean, since “one” is a noun yet “the same” isn’t exactly a specific location for that noun to go.

“On accident” versus “By accident”
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When something happens by accident, nobody saw it coming. It was a happenstance instance. But when something happens on an accident, it means that whatever went down actually went down on top of an already existing accident. And, in reality, that’s likely not what you were trying to say. So try not to say on accident by accident when you’re trying to describe a mistake, since that will make it a double whoopsie.