The English language is one that seems easy at first glance. It’s non-tonal and there are only 26 letters mixed and matched to create every word. How hard could it be?
If you think English is easy, you’re either an expert in the language or just in denial. Even native speakers struggle to use English correctly. Those learning it as a second language find truly mastering it challenging because there are so many little details and exceptions to rules.
English words, in particular, can be hard to learn because there are so many words that originated from other languages such as Latin, Danish, Greek, Dutch, and even Chinese. Developing a wide vocabulary is something that comes with nothing other than time and experience.
No matter how many years you’ve been speaking, reading, and writing English, chances are that there are some words that you aren’t using correctly. Perhaps you’ve even heard other people butchering certain terms and saying something that isn’t in line with what they intended to say.
Want to up your English game? Make sure that you know how to use the five following words correctly:
1 – Literally
Don’t you hate it when someone says that they are “literally” going to do something when they clearly aren’t? The term “literal” refers to things that are taken as they are and unexaggerated. If you don’t keel over after saying you’re “literally going to die laughing,” it’s safe to say that your English isn’t as good as you think it is. If you want to add emphasis to whatever you’re saying, try “virtually” or “practically” instead.
2 – Less
“Less” and “few” are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Although they are similar, the word “few” is used to describe countable items while “less” is used for uncountable ones. You would tell someone to drink less soda while they’re on a diet, but also eat fewer chocolate bars. Before you try to describe a smaller amount of something, ask yourself if it can be counted. If it can, use “fewer.” If it can’t, use “less” instead.
3 – A lot
Let’s make one thing clear: “alot” isn’t a word. There should always be a space between “a” and “lot.” If you’ve been putting them together in your writing, start correcting the habit immediately, lest you develop a reputation for having poor English skills.
4 – Infamous
It isn’t uncommon to hear people describe something or someone as “infamous” when they mean “very famous.” This term does refer to fame, but it isn’t the positive type of fame that you’re thinking of. Rather, “infamous” refers to something or someone that is famous but for a negative reason. Martin Luther King is famous for his fight for civil rights. Ted Bundy is infamous for kidnapping, raping, and killing young women.
5 – Dilemma
You can say you’re “in a dilemma” when you’re in a tough spot with only two possible paths to take. Typically, neither one is the obviously superior choice. Many people make the mistake of saying they’re “in a dilemma” when they’re having a difficult time making a decision. When there are more than two options available to choose from, however, it’s a problem rather than a dilemma.
Whether you’re a blogger, small business owner, or marketing professional, it’s crucial to pay attention to the content you put out for people to see. Grammatic and structural errors, as well as incorrectly used words, will only damage your reputation and make you seem like someone who doesn’t take their job seriously.
If you aren’t confident in your proofreading and copyediting skills, consider hiring a service to ensure the work you put out there is at its best. Proofreading Pros is a human-powered proofreading service, ready to help! Get started today by signing up for a trial account and have your first 1,000 words edited for free!