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Pile of scrabble pieces.
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Even though we like to consider ourselves mini-geniuses, everyone makes mistakes. For example, there are dozens of words we almost all use incorrectly, even though we think we’re right on the money. The problem with misused words is this: since so many of us use them in the wrong way, we rarely get corrected. So we make the mistakes over and over and then pass the bad habit onto our friends, family, employees, and even kids.

Making the problem even worse is the fact that we’re also very polite (at least usually), and correcting people’s vocabulary or grammar can be tough. You want to do it in just the right way, so that you don’t come off like a jerk or hurt anyone’s feelings. Unlike always making sure to tell your bestie when they have something stuck in their teeth or they need to blow their nose, correcting their misuse of certain words can be more of a case-by-case situation.

Is it a word they misuse all the time? Will they embarrass themselves at work or in a professional setting? Or did they just mix something up while they were ranting over a glass a wine? It depends. You can always just forward them this list to send a not-so-subtle hint!

Here are some words we basically all use wrong.

1Cliché

So, cliché is actually a noun and not an adjective. Instead of going all Cher Horowitz and calling something “so cliché,” you just call the person, place, or thing a cliché.

2Ultimate

You might think that this means like, the best of something, but it really just means the last thing on a list. So when we say, “The Bachelor is the ultimate reality show,” we’re doing it wrong. Then again, its common usage has made it into the dictionary so you’re not really wrong.

3Pretentious

A lot of people tend to think that pretentious means snobby, but it actually means that someone or something is pretending to be something they’re not. It probably caught on as snobby since a lot of people pretend to know things they actually don’t. But a person doesn’t have to be stuffy or snobby to be pretentious. It’s basically a fancy word for “poser.”

4Peruse

We might tell our friends that we’re going to go peruse a copy of Vogue while they hit the restroom at the mall. But peruse doesn’t mean to skim or browse. It actually means to study in depth (which is how fashion mags should be read anyway!). Consider our minds blown.

5Disinterested

Disinterested means that someone is neutral about something, like you could take it or leave it. If someone is not interested in something, you use the word uninterested. This is another one of those words where people fight about whether or not its popular use should just be its real definition since so many people use disinterested and uninterested interchangeably.

6Irregardless

This is not a word. The prefix of “ir” is redundant, because adding the “-less” does the trick. Just say regardless.

7Redundant

Speaking of redundant, that doesn’t mean what most of us think it does either. Many assume that it just means repetitive. But it’s more than that — for something to be redundant, it has to be “unnecessarily excessive.” So the items in somebody’s closet could be redundant, as could a field of the same flower. Crazy, right?

8i.e.

A lot of people use i.e. when they’re trying to give a list of examples. But that’s e.g. You use i.e. when you want to say, “in other words.”

9Decimate

Most people use this word to say “wiped out completely,” like “the nuclear explosion decimated the city.” But really it just means to wipe out by ten percent, hence the “deci.” It actually comes from an ancient Roman form of punishment which entailed killing one in every ten soldiers as punishment for a whole squad. Yikes, right?

A lot of these words are misused so often that you might not even have to bother changing your habit. But it’s always at least nice to know. For the love of grammar!