CONSENSUSConsensus: general opinion or position acceptable to everyone involved.
The consensus was that he wouldn’t stay with the company much longer. Republicans and Democrats tried to reach a consensus on the bill.Consensus does not mean majority. And don’t say consensus of opinion.
DIFFERENT THANDifferent than is now so common that many people consider it standard. However, we must discourage this ugly construction. Use different from!
A man’s viewpoint is different from a woman’s.
EKE OUTMany writers mistakenly use the expression eke out to mean barely achieve.
The horse eked out a narrow victory.
I eked out a tiny profit.The standard definition of eke out is supplement:
I eked out my salary by winning at the racetrack.
The Thanksgiving turkey was eked out by stuffing and mashed potatoes.Eke is an old-fashioned word meaning extra or more. The word nickname comes from the centuries-old expression eke-name, which means extra name.
EMPHASIZEMost of us know that emphasize means give special force or prominence to:
She dressed to emphasize her figure. I emphasized the importance of speaking clearly.However, some people think emphasize also means feel what the other person is feeling. The word they want is empathize.
I try to empathize with any customer who has a complaint.
ENORMITYEnormity means heinousness, or dreadfulness. It does not mean immense size.
Because of the enormity of his offense, the judge sentenced him to death.
EQUALLY ASIf you want to sound really illiterate, just use equally as, as in :
I’m equally as fond of Ms. Smith as I am of Ms.Jones.As is implied in the word equally. In any case, in the above sentence, you shouldn’t use equally at all. Just say, ”I’m as fond…” Use equally to precede a list to which it refers:
I’m equally indebted to my boss, my assistant, my family, and my dog.
EQUIVOCAL/EQUIVOCATEEquivocal means ambiguous, questionable, or misleading. If you’re equivocating, you’re being deliberately vague or ambiguous in order to avoid committing yourself, or to mislead or confuse the person you’re speaking with. Equivocating is not exactly lying; it’s just not being entirely truthful. The definitions of equivocal and equivocate do not have anything to do with words like equal, equivalent, or equate.
IRREGARDLESSStrictly speaking, it’s not true that there is no such word as irregardless. Since so many people use it, we have to admit that it’s a word. However, it’s an illiterate word, and has no place in business writing. Use regardless.
LITERALLYMany writers use literally when they mean figuratively.
He literally stuck a knife in my heart and twisted it.Really? Then why aren’t you dead? This is a very easy mistake to make. Many of us throw in the word literally as a “flavoring particle,” just to make the sentence a little stronger-as you might say. “He’s a total fool,” instead of “He’s a fool.” Only use literally when you have to emphasize the fact that you really do mean something literally: After the burial, he literally danced on her grave. I was disgusted by this display of hatred.
MAJORITYA majority means more than half. It does not mean the most. A plurality means more than any of the others, but not more than half. In other words, if Ms. Smith got 53 percent of the votes, she would have a majority. If she got 48 percent, Mr. Jones got 40 percent, and Ms. Brown got 12 percent, Ms. Smith would have a plurality, not a majority, If more than half the people in a town were Catholic, then the Catholics would be in the majority. If the religious breakdown were 45 percent Catholic, 20 percent Protestant, 15 percent Jewish, 10 percent Buddhist, and 10 percent Muslim, then the Catholics would have a very large plurality, but not a majority. Plurality also refers to the difference between one number and another. If the 435-member House of Representatives had 218 Republicans, 190 Democrats, 20 Communists, and 7 Liberatarians, then the Republicans would have a majority of one. (That is, 218 is one seat more than half of the total.) They would have a plurality of 28 over the Democrats.
MOMENTARILYMomentarily means for a moment, not in a moment. If you say,”I’ll be back momentarily,” it means, I’ll be back, but only for a short time.” If you mean to say that .you won’t be gone long, say, “I’ll be back soon.”
PARTYParty can mean a group of people: Mr. Jones and his party means Mr. Jones and the people he brought with him. A person can be a party to a contract, in a legal document, or party to a conspiracy. Party is not a synonym for person. Don’ say, “The party I spoke to yesterday,” if you’re referring to one person.
PENULTIMATEPenultimate means next to last. It does not mean highest or greatest. Some people use phrases like, This meeting is of penultimate importance, probably because penultimate is such an impressive-sounding word.
PRESENTLYPresently means soon or shortly thereafter.
I’ll be back presently.
He lay on the floor sobbing for a while, but presently he composed himself.Presently does not mean now. At present does.