Last week we talked about several words and phrases that can undermine your credibility as a professional. Another common problem is misusing words. People often make the mistake of equating a large vocabulary with being articulate and intelligent and try to pepper their speech with as many impressive vocabulary words as possible. Unfortunately this can backfire; not only can unnecessarily complicated words make you sound pretentious, if you use them incorrectly, it can undermine your credibility. Take a look at these very commonly misused words that you may be unaware of:
- Nonplussed: People often mistakenly think that this word means calm or not flustered. However, it actually has a very different meaning: nonplussed means to be confused.
Example: “I was completely nonplussed by the client’s negative reaction. I had no idea that they were unhappy.”
- Bemused: Because this word sounds like amused, the two are often confused. Bemused actually has a similar meaning to nonplussed: perplexed or confused.
Example: “He was bemused by the overly complicated instructions.”
- Irregardless: This is actually not a word at all. It often gets mis-produced as a combination of regardless and irrespective, both of which mean “in spite of.”
- Penultimate: Because it contains the word ultimate, people often misunderstand this word as a positive superlative, something like “the very best.” It actually means the next to last.
Example: “Roger will be our penultimate speaker of the day. Then Susan will speak and we will conclude our meeting.”
If you have questions or are interested in improving your communication skills, give me a call at 212-308-7725 or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you might have!
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