Life & Work Skills

12 Words and Phrases You Might Be Using Wrong


Ah, grammar — people either hate it with every fiber of their beings or absolutely love it, and I’ve always fallen into the latter category. Luckily, I’m an editorial assistant and copy editor here at The Everygirl, which means my days are filled with correcting all of the mistakes my word-filled heart could ever desire.

With this, however, comes correcting the same mistakes — over, and over, and over, and over. There are a select few grammar mistakes that people continually make, and in the same breath, words and phrases that people continually misuse.

While I already dove into the most common writing mistakes I see, I also see the same words and phrases misused all of the time. These are the ones that are at the top of my list (and the list is not a place you want to be).



1. Literally

This is the 2019 version of Valley Girl diction, and is obviously frequently used intentionally wrong to be dramatic. Trust me, I get it — contrary to what I said when I got into the office this morning, I was not literally going to die if I didn’t get an iced americano.

But in writing, literally is used frequently where it isn’t necessary — literally means that something is actually literal. While it isn’t necessary to say a jacket that only comes in four colors comes in “literally a thousand colors,” you could have “received literally 100 emails today”— literally!

While you’re writing, your best bet is to stick to “literally” when you really mean it.


2. Infamous

What people think it means: A synonym for ‘famous’

What it really means: Well-known for a bad quality or deed

Maddie is infamously horrible at singing.


3. Travesty

What people think it means: A tragedy

What it really means: A false or distorted representation of something

Jussie Smollett’s charges getting dropped is a travesty of the justice system.


4. Entitled

“I watched a movie entitled Us this weekend!”

What people think it means: A descriptor for a title

What it really means: Entitled means believing you deserve special treatment — it shouldn’t be used to describe the name of something.


5. Good/ well

People always think good and well can be used interchangeably, but that isn’t the case.

Good is an adjective, while well is an adverb answering a “how” question.


She did a good job. (Good is describing job, which is a noun.)

She did the job well. (Well is an adverb describing how the job was done.)


When referring to health, use well.

You don’t look well!

When describing emotion, use good.

I don’t feel good about this project.




6. Disinterested

What people think it means: Bored; not interested

What it really means: Not influenced for selfish reasons; unbiased

She gave me disinterested finance advice.


When you want to express a lack of interest, use uninterested instead of disinterested — it does mean lacking interest.

I was uninterested in our conversation about types of cars. 


7. Without further ado

Incorrect: Without further adieu — which means goodbye in French

Correct: Without further ado — meaning without further delay

Without further ado, here are my favorite products of the year.


8. Plethora

What people think it means: A lot

What it really means: An excess or overabundance of something

A plethora of horror movies have come out this year.


9. For all intents and purposes

Incorrect: For all intensive purposes

Correct: For all intents and purposes — meaning “in effect.”

For all intents and purposes, the beaches are open today.


10. Dilemma

What people think it means: A problem

What it really means: A choice between two equally undesirable options

I had to choose between eating asparagus and broccoli — it was a dilemma.


11. I could care less

When people say “they could care less,” they usually mean “they couldn’t care less.”

Correct: I couldn’t care less — meaning that you don’t care

Incorrect: I could care less — meaning you do care


12. Aesthetic

Aesthetic is a noun describing a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist — or Instagrammer.

“I love her feed’s aesthetic.”

It also can be an adjective, referring to a concern or appreciation of beauty.

That picture gives me such great aesthetic pleasure.”

People frequently say “that’s so aesthetic” — don’t.


Bonus: Plural last names

Christmastime is a doozy for me, and let me tell you why.

Every year, my mom displays all of the Christmas cards we receive on a board in our kitchen. They’re lovely and uplifting and full of magical holiday spirit, but most of them have the plural of the sender’s last name wrong — front and center. God save the queen.

Don’t use an apostrophe, stick to adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ — Merry Christmas from the Gillettes! NOT Merry Christmas from the Gillette’s!

If your last name ends in s, z, ch, or sh, add ‘es.’ — Seasons Greetings from the Joneses!