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40 incorrect words will make your look unprofessional
#1
[Image: 20141210212718-40-incorrectly-used-words...-dumb.jpeg]

While I like to think I know a little about business writing, I still fall into a few word traps. (Not to mention a few cliché traps.)

Take the words "who" and "whom." I rarely use "whom" when I should -- even when spell check suggests "whom" I think it sounds pretentious. So I use "who."

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240740
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#2
And then I sound dumb.

Just like one misspelled word can get your resume tossed onto the "nope" pile, one incorrectly used word can negatively impact your entire message. Fairly or unfairly, it happens -- so let's make sure it doesn't happen to you.
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#3
1. Adverse and 2. averse

Adverse means harmful or unfavorable: "Adverse market conditions caused the IPO to be poorly subscribed." Averse refers to feelings of dislike or opposition: "I was averse to paying $18 a share for a company that generates no revenue."

But hey, feel free to have an aversion to adverse conditions.
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#4
3. Affect and 4. effect

Verbs first. Affect means to influence: "Impatient investors affected our roll-out date." Effect means to accomplish something: "The board effected a sweeping policy change."

How you use effect or affect can be tricky. For example, a board can affect changes by influencing them and can effect changes by directly implementing them. Bottom line, use effect if you're making it happen, and affect if you're having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen.

As for nouns, effect is almost always correct: "Once he was fired he was given 20 minutes to gather his personal effects." Affect refers to an emotional state, so unless you're a psychologist you probably have little reason to use it.
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#5
5. Bring and 6. take

Both have to do with objects you move or carry. The difference is in the point of reference: you bring things here and you take them there. You ask people to bring something to you, and you ask people to take something to someone or somewhere else.

“Can you bring an appetizer to John's party”? Nope.
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#6
7. Compliment and 8. complement
Compliment means to say something nice. Complement means to add to, enhance, improve, complete, or bring close to perfection.

I can compliment your staff and their service, but if you have no current openings you have a full complement of staff. Or your new app may complement your website.

For which I may decide to compliment you.
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#7
9. Criteria and 10. criterion

"We made the decision based on one overriding criteria," sounds fairly impressive but is also wrong.

Remember: one criterion, two or more criteria. Or just use "reason" or "factors" and you won’t have to worry about getting it wrong.
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#8
11. Discreet and 12. discrete

Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment: "We made discreet inquiries to determine whether the founder was interested in selling her company."

Discrete means individual, separate, or distinct: "We analyzed data from a number of discrete market segments to determine overall pricing levels." And if you get confused, remember you don't use “discretion” to work through sensitive issues; you exercise discretion.
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#9
13. Elicit and 14. illicit

Elicit means to draw out or coax. Think of elicit as the mildest form of extract. If one lucky survey respondent will win a trip to the Bahamas, the prize is designed to elicit responses.

Illicit means illegal or unlawful, and while I suppose you could elicit a response at gunpoint ... you probably shouldn't.
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#10
15. Farther and 16. further

Farther involves a physical distance: "Florida is farther from New York than Tennessee." Further involves a figurative distance: "We can take our business plan no further."

So, as we say in the South (and that "we" has included me), "I don't trust you any farther than I can throw you," or, "I ain't gonna trust you no further."
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