Commonly Misused Phrases That Make You Sound Less Professional

When deciding between which phrase to use, be sure to be careful. You wouldn’t want your boss to exact revenge on you. You would want to help extract revenge on the company that stole intellectual property. That’s just one example, but believe there are a ton more that people get mixed up every day. Knowing the difference between commonly misused phrases will help from seeming unprofessional. “An impeccable reputation that makes you look consistently professional and reliable stick with you and could be the difference between a promotion,” U.S. News reported. So go through and learn the correct way to use commonly misused phrases.


“Tongue And Cheek” Versus “Tongue In Cheek”

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Let’s get this one out of the way now. People say tongue in cheek remarks every day. That is a phrase that carries sarcasm, exaggeration, and even irony. An example would be Tom Cruise saying his career is over during a speech after just winning two Academy Awards.

Conversely, people like to use “tongue and cheek” by mistake regularly. “Tongue and cheek” can only mean that a cheek and tongue were involved. Now you can help the next person who uses this phrase.

“Peace Of Mind” Versus “Piece Of Mind”

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These two phrases are said the same. Spelling separates them, so you must use them correctly to avoid confusion. If one or the other become taken out of context, then someone might get the wrong idea. An example, the lady in the above photo looks like she wants to give President Trump a “piece of mind.” This phrase usually happens when someone upsets you.

On the other hand, “peace of mind” is the opposite. Finishing a hard assignment is something that can provide you with peace of mind. “Peace of mind” deals with positivity while a “piece of mind” is negative. Be sure to give your co-workers peace of mind.

Expresso Versus Espresso

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Baristas everywhere, we feel your pain and apologize on behalf of those in society who don’t know the difference. When you go to order one of your favorite drinks from Starbucks, be sure you’re saying it correctly. You can always order as many espressos as you want.

Too bad you can’t order an “expresso.” Expressos do not exist at the moment. Thankfully, the person taking your order knows what you mean and has it out for you in no time.

“Nerve-Wrecking” Versus “Nerve-Wracking”

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There are plenty of nerve-wracking situations to go around, especially at work. That doesn’t mean you have to misuse the phrase. Figuring out which expression is the correct one can also become nerve-wracking.

The accurate way to use this term is “nerve-wracking.” You may also get away with “nerve-racking” when attempting to use it in written form. Just be sure to pronounce it correctly because wrecking sounds completely different wracking. The phrases coming up next are almost one in the same, but only one is the correct form.

“Deep-Seeded” Versus “Deep-Seated”


One thing that’s interesting with these two phrases is their visualization. You can vividly picture something that’s deep-seeded. The same goes for deep-seated. How does one navigate between the two? Well, deep-seated is something that feels deeply buried in an existing structure like putting a mummy in the depths of a pyramid.

Planting a deep seed means what it says. You can’t go wrong using either or, but if you wish to be correct at all times, then you should use deep-seated.

“Fall By The Waste Side” Versus “Fall By The Wayside”

Many things can fall by the wayside. An older player on a team falls by the wayside. Your driving skills as you get up there in age also fall by the wayside. Not much can fall by the waste side. That is unless you’re referring to an area where trash is there.

We’re here to remind you to throw out the phrase fall by the waste side. You only need to know fall by the wayside. And that is when something hasn’t been up to par with everything else.

“I Could Care Less” Versus “I Couldn’t Care Less”

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This is probably one of the most commonly misused phrases you will encounter or perform yourself. To care or not, is the real question. Usually, when someone uses this phrase, they are trying to show how little they care. In the end, they end up revealing they do care.

Saying “I could care less” means you care to a certain extent. There’s room to “care less” as you stated. When you use “I couldn’t care less,” you’re saying what you mean.

“360-Degree Change” Versus “180-Degree Change”

When someone is going downhill fast in life, he or she might want to change things up. For some, the same thing keeps getting accomplished, so there is no change involved. That is an example of a 360-degree change. Nothing has altered, and you’re still in the same spot.

Now, if you make changes for the better, that is a 180-degree change. People often forget that a 360 is a full turnaround. Whereas a 180-degree change means turning a whole new direction. Make the 180-degree change and stop using 360.

“Old Timer’s Disease” Versus “Alzheimer’s Disease”

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If you haven’t encountered anyone who uses “old timer’s disease,” consider yourself lucky. This silly misuse of phrases can either be a joke, or people genuinely don’t know the difference. You hear the old timer’s phrase more so from younger people.

Imagine being an adult and accidentally telling someone they have “Alzheimer’s?” You better immediately do the fake laugh with the “just kidding” attached. Whether you use it as a joke, it’s probably best you put that old timer’s disease to rest.

“Statue Of Limitations” Versus “Statute Of Limitations”


You’ve probably dealt with this issue in the past. We get it, not all of us are fluent in the legal talk. This phrase is for the Olivia Pope’s of the world, not Joe from the diner. The frequent misuse is “statue of limitations.”

Hold it right there. It’s not a sculpture of limitations. The correct way to say this is “statute of limitations.” It is a legal term used to describe a period of limitations.

“Case And Point” Versus “Case In Point”

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When trying to differentiate between these two, always remember “in” focuses on a certain matter. “And” means you’re going for separate actions. These phrases might be one of the harder ones to remember.

Case in point is something you might hear in the court of law. A lawyer might begin his final statement with “case in point.” “Case and point” sounds more like you’re trying to outline a robbery. Point to exactly where the points of interests are.

Doing Good Versus Doing Well

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Grammar police probably make the same face Obama is making above when they encounter this misusage. “Doing well” and “doing good” are used so often that people think either are fair to use. They also think they have the same meaning.

News flash, these two phrases do not hold the same meaning in the slightest. You use “good” when you wish to describe nouns. “Well” gets used when you want to define a verb. The cat jumps well. She is a good cat.

“Beckon Call” Versus “Beck And Call”

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Loved ones are usually at their significant other’s beck and call. Meaning, they are willing and ready to respond to a request given to them at any moment. That must be a great feeling to have someone at your beck and call.

Now, if you have a pal by the name of Beckon and they call you up, then you can tell someone you’re taking the Beckon call. The first option is the right way to go.

“Should Have” Versus “Should Of”

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These two are tricky because of how close they sound. When you use “should have,” you often turn it into its contraction form “should’ve.” That word sounds terribly like “should of.” Because of that, people like to get comfortable with using both.

Unless you’re a grammatical champion, you probably don’t know which of the two is proper to use. The more professional way is always “should have.” You should have paid more attention in class.

“Escape Goat” Versus “Scapegoat”

If you’re a farmer with various animals under your care, then you may have a valid point to use “escape goat.” Someone might come and try and rob you, but luckily your goat is fast, so you ride away on your escape goat.

In reality, you should never use “escape goat.” The correct term is a “scapegoat.” And a scapegoat is someone who takes the blame, gets thrown under the bus, or whatever you want to use to describe it. Don’t be a scapegoat in life.

“Physical Year” Versus “Fiscal Year”

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“Hi yes, do you think our country is going to have a better physical year than last year with finances?” The facial response in the photo above is the face someone might make if they get asked that. With only a slight difference in pronunciation, these two get confused often.

Unless you’re some athlete, you shouldn’t have “physical years.” However, the physical year also refers to the calendar year. The term that people get confused is the “fiscal year.” The fiscal year is for taxes and accounting purposes.

“Doggie Dog” Versus “Dog Eat Dog”

These are two entirely different phrases. “Doggie dog” is a phrase you would use to describe one of your dog friends. You might even refer to one of your human friends as “doggie dog.” As far as “dog eat dog” goes, that’s a whole other ballpark.

The two phrases almost sound similar depending on how fast you say them. “Dog eat dog” is used to describe a competitive environment. Sometimes, it can be a dog eat dog world.

“Buy In Large” Versus “By And Large”


“Buy in large” and “by and large” are two terms you don’t want to mix up. “By and large” gets credited as a sailor term, but its origins are different. It started as meaning “generally speaking” or “in general.”

“Buy in large” means what it says. If you’re on a date at the movies and you’re a little hungrier than usual, then the popcorn is something you might buy in large. People mix these two up often.

“Peak Interest” Versus “Pique Interest”

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Don’t be that person who uses these wrong because they sound similar. You must know the difference between “peak” and “pique” before you get started throwing this phrase around. When someone has reached their “peak interest,” that means there is nothing more that can make them raise their interest.

People who like to travel or eat new foods love to find something that “piques their interest.” Meaning the foods or desired travel destination entices an idea in their mind. The queen looks like her interest is piqued in the image above.

“Jive With” Versus “Jibe With”

You both “jive” and “jibe” with someone. Two different verbs that are more acceptable depending on your location. When you “jive with,” you’re dancing with someone in a sense. It’s a playful verb and something you wouldn’t want to say in the workplace.

To “jibe with” someone means to get along with or understand. If your boss asks how things are going with the new employee, you can always say the two of you are jibing together.

“For All Intensive Purposes” Versus “For All Intents And Purposes”

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This phrase is always misused. Someone who wants to speak intelligently by using “for all intensive purposes” is actually doing the opposite. “Intensive” means something is focused or powerful, so unless you’re only referring to one main, focused purpose, you don’t want to use this phrase.

The correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes,” which means that you’re coming from all possible important angles and opinions. So for all intents and purposes of sounding professional, keep this information in mind.

“One In The Same” Versus “One And The Same”

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This one is tough to distinguish, especially since the two phrases sound so similar. The correct version is “one and the same,” because when you’re discussing an incident, for example, that is exactly similar to another that happened after it, they are one and the same.

“One in the same” makes no grammatical sense. You could have “one” of something, but to have it “in the same” is confusing since “the same” is not an actual place that you could go to.

“On Accident” Versus “By Accident”

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Most people use either of these phrases since they’re both so embedded in colloquial American English. When someone uses either of these terms, they’re usually referring to something that happened unexpectedly. In that case, something happened “by accident.”

But if something happened “on accident,” you’re actually saying that it happened on top of a pre-existing accident. We’re sure you usually say this when something is an accident the first time, so whenever that happens, just remember that it was “by accident.”

“Self-Depreciating” Versus “Self-Deprecating”

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While using either of these phrases probably wouldn’t be helpful to you in your pursuit of sounding professional (confidence is key!), it would at least be helpful to know which version you don’t want to use.

“Depreciation” is a financial term referring to something that loses value. Humans can’t technically lose value in the same sense, but they can be self-deprecating when they’re being hard on themselves. But remember, it doesn’t help to be self-deprecating in the professional world!

“Irregardless” Versus “Regardless”

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Aficionados of the English language will probably stop talking to you if you use the word “irregardless.” Though it’s technically in the dictionary, please note that official dictionaries often add colloquial words to reflect the fact that people use them.

That being said, “irregardless” was never technically a word, regardless of what you hear people say these days. We generally use both to mean the same thing, but “irregardless” just sounds repetitive and nonsensical. Regardless, people are still probably going to use the wrong term, but please don’t be one of them.

“Make Do” Versus “Make Due”


Neither of these phrases is wrong, but it helps to know which one is the right one to use depending on what you want to say. When you “make do” with something, you’re getting by with whatever means you already have.

Alternatively, you can “make something due” at a certain date or deadline, but that is completely different from the former phrase. If someone makes a project due by next week, but you haven’t gathered all your materials yet, then you’ll just have to make do with what you’ve got.

“Nip It In The Butt” Versus “Nip It In The Bud”

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If you’ve ever told someone you had to “nip it in the butt,” then they probably had a strange reaction. After all, you just said you did something to someone’s derriere, but that’s beside the point.

Let’s nip this miscommunication in the bud right now. When you use the phrase, you mean that you are putting something to an end before it can progress. This comes from the idea of de-budding flowers before they had a chance to grow into a full bloom.

“Shoe-In” Versus “Shoo In”

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The differentiation between these two phrases is a little tricky. When we use this phrase, we’re usually saying that someone is going to win. People probably think saying that person is a “shoe-in” is the correct version, especially since that has the visualization of someone having their foot in the door.

It’s actually wrong, though. The original phrase is “shoo in,” which hearkens back to when horse racing was big. Back then, people would try to “shoo,” or in other words urge, the horses towards victory.

“Mute Point” Versus “Moot Point”

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To say that a topic of conversation has reached a “moot point” means that that topic is irrelevant or is up to debate. This is usually what people mean when they use the phrase, and as such, “moot point” should be the version they use.

A “mute point” wouldn’t make too much sense. To mute something means to silence it, just as you can with a television at the push of a button. “Mute” is a verb, while “moot” is not.

“Proceed” Versus “Precede”

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Both of these words are very much legitimate words in the English language, but it’s helpful to know the difference between them and when to use them if you want to sound professional.

If you are going to “proceed,” it means you are going to continue or move forward with something. This is completely different than if you use the word “precede,” which is a verb that explains something is coming before another thing. These definitions should precede your thoughts before they proceed to come out of your mouth.

“Shade Light On” Versus “Shed Light On”

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If by explaining something to someone your objective is to “shade light on” a topic, then you’re only making things more confusing for that person. Shade and light are contradicting. We suppose you could shade a light, but then you’d be blocking the light, which is the opposite of “shed light on.”

When you’re “shedding light on” something, you’re making a topic more clear, which is what people usually mean when they use this term. Now that we shed some light on how to use this phrase, we hope you don’t use the incorrect version.

“Down The Pipe” Versus “Down The Pike”


People use these phrases to indicate that something is about to happen or that it is near. But the correct usage of this idiom is down the pike because we’re going to tell you now that “down the pipe” was never correct.

Even though people use both phrases to mean the same thing, the original phrase was “down the pike,” which referred to something coming down the turnpike, as if something is headed your way. Mario may have traveled “down the pipe” in the same sense, but just know that his saving Princess Peach was down the pike.

“Flush It Out” Versus “Flesh It Out”

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Both of these phrases can be used in similar topics of conversation, but be careful about which one you use. When you encounter a problem in a big project but can’t pinpoint its source, you make efforts to “flush it out” and figure out what the issue was.

On the other hand, if you have an idea for a project, but don’t know exactly where to take it, you would then “flesh out” the idea. The easy way to remember the difference is to think of the visuals behind these two phrases.

“Sneak Peak” Versus “Sneak Peek”

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In any normal conversation, there’d be no way to differentiate between these two phrases. But if you were writing either of these out, it’s helpful to know the correct version to use.

The key here is to understand the difference between “peak” and “peek.” A “peak” is the highest point of something, like a mountain or a building, while a “peek” is a quick glimpse. People say this phrase usually when they’re referring to a sly glimpse of something, before its official debut. In that case, you always want to say “sneak peek.”

“Bemused” Versus “Amused”

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This one is tricky. Because both words sound so similar, people tend to think that the words are synonymous with each other but in fact, they are complete opposites. When you’re “amused” you are enjoying something. When you’re “bemused,” you’re bewildered or confused.

Just think of it this way: People are either bemused or amused by psychological thrillers. They’re either bemused because they don’t understand what’s going on. On the other hand, those who do understand what’s going on take great amusement in the film.

“Anyway” Versus “Anyways”

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In everyday conversation, people use “anyways” just as often as they use “anyway.” Many of us let it slide in normal conversation, but grammar particulars know that everytime someone says “anyways,” they’re technically wrong.

Especially in cases where you want to sound professional, always remember to use “anyway” without the extra “s” at the end. That way, people will see that not only can you articulate your thoughts in a precise and clear manner, but you also know the difference between the two words. Anyway, that’s what this article is about, is it not?

“Without Further Adieu” Versus “Without Further Ado”

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When you hear both of these phrases, you might consider them to be saying the same thing. However, only one of them is correct. “Adieu” is a fancy way of saying goodbye, taking its origins from the French language. “Ado” is another word for hubbub or fuss.

When someone says “without further ado,” they mean to cut through all the nonsense and get straight to the point. To say “without further adieu” wouldn’t have the same effect since in that case, you’d just be saying something without saying goodbye.

“Step Foot” Versus “Set Foot”

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Both of these phrases can be used interchangeably since neither of them are technically incorrect. However, most people use “set foot” as in, “the minute Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, history was made.”

In fact, the Oxford English Dictrionary notes that the phrase “set foot” is centuries older than its counterpart. So if you want to be more traditional and thereby sound more professional, we suggest saying “set foot” as opposed to “step foot.”

“Try And” Versus “Try To”

We’re sure that you’ve heard someone say that they’re going to “try and do something” and you probably didn’t blink an eye to the phrase. While most people get away with saying either, for the sake of sounding professional, it might help to know that you should “try to” use the correct version.

If you “try to” do something, then you’re actively working toward achieving whatever it is you’re doing. On the other hand, when you “try and” do something, you’re trying on top of doing something else.

“Hone In” Versus “Home In”

These two phrases sound very similar, so it’s easy to assume that you’re saying the same thing when you use one or the other. In fact, they have two very distinct meanings and it’s helpful to know which is which.

When you “hone in” on something, you’re focusing on it to become better. For example, you’re “honing in” on your technical skills. But if you “home in” on something, that means you’re getting closer to your goal. Remember, honing in on your technical skills will help you home in on your goal of landing that job.