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Excuse Me, That’s Not a Word

It started with a little tweet about alot. Soon after, I tried to get through a post from a respected blogger and marketer who lost me with “impactful”. Not realising I was starting something, I asked the Twitterverse if “impactful” bugged anyone else and what non-words did they find annoying. It turns out I’m not the only one harbouring a few pet peeves about the English language.

Passionate Opinion
I’m a writer and a word nerd. I recently bought Peter E. Meltzer’s The Thinker’s Thesaurus: Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words to keep myself entertained and inspired. It’s full of fancy-pants words I would never use in normal communication, but they are all legitimate members of the English language. The respondents to my informal poll bombarded me with examples of words, phrases, common misspellings and errors in usage driving them nuts and, in some cases, spitting mad.

Public Service Announcement
As a service to anyone interested in evading the ire attached to the usage of these words, I’m providing a list. Use them at your peril. The overriding sentiment about non-word usage is it demonstrates lack of intelligence, education or attention to detail. If these words are appearing in your normal business communications and marketing collateral, my advice is to get rid of them and do it quickly.

The Top Offenders
Two words were submitted repeatedly. Obliterate these from your vocabulary:

  • incentivise
  • agreeance

Other non-words peeving the pets
In no particular order:

  •  supposably
  • onboarding
  • de-train
  • de-plane
  • onforward
  • verbally facilitate
  • unpacking (as in “unpacking the issues”)
  • disaggregations
  • misunderestimated
  • conversating
  • embiggened
  • learnings
  • irregardless
  • anonymize
  • operationalize
  • Westralia

Errors in Usage
Plenty of people complained about real words being used at the wrong time or in the wrong context.

  • enormousness vs. enormity
  • thankyou vs. thank you
  • round vs. around
  • penultimate vs. ultimate
  • hone vs. home
  • momentary vs. momentarily
  • phenomena vs. phenomenon

The evergreens in this category:

  • lose vs. loose
  • chose vs. choose
  • there vs. they’re vs. their
  • its vs. it’s

The Crux of the Matter
Arguing the validity of a word or its modern usage is pointless. When you write or say something distracting to your audience, you’ve lost your ability to inform and influence. While military jargon and business-speak easily invade our lexicon, it’s best to stick to straight talk and common words to express yourself. (Don’t get me started on SMS text.) The best way to impress is to speak and write in a way that reaches everyone and offends no one.

What words annoy you? What would you add to this list?

*Image courtesy of Topgold at

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