I read a tweet recently which featured the phrase “case and point.” I knew the correct phrase was, of course, “case in point,” but it gave me pause as I thought about other similar examples. The problem with many of these idiomatic phrases is that people have often said or heard the phrases but have seldom, if ever, read or written them.
Hence, the following examples of often misheard/misused phrases that you will want to brush up on for more effective PR writing.
Deep-seeded vs. deep-seated. Even though deep-seeded kind of does make sense, the expression has nothing to do with a feeling being planted deep within one, but instead refers to its being seated firmly within one’s being: “My aversion to anchovies is deep-seated.”
For all intensive purposes vs. for all intents and purposes. Intensive purposes? Purposes that are exceptionally concentrated? No, in effect; for all practical purposes. “For all intents and purposes, I do not text and drive.”
Wet vs. whet one’s appetite. While imbibing may have an effect on your appetite, the proper word is whet. It is just such an uncommon word that people seldom see it spelled out. The word literally means to sharpen a knife or to excite or stimulate (someone’s desire, interest, or appetite).
Pore over vs. pour over. If you’re “pouring over” documents be prepared for some messy paperwork! What you should be doing is “poring over” them, or examining them closely.
Home in vs. hone in. Home in means to direct on a target and derives from the 19th-century use of homing pigeons! Used metaphorically, one can home in on something or focus on and make progress toward it. To hone is to sharpen, and it has become an alteration of home in. Although many people regard it as an error, it has become so common that many dictionaries now list it. We can think of honing in as a sharpening of focus or a perfecting of one’s trajectory toward a target. So while it might not make strict logical sense, extending hone this way is not a huge leap.
So, remember the next time you treat something with disdain by saying “I could care less,” no, in fact you could! So use the proper phrase, “I couldn’t care less.”
Any improperly used expressions that irk you? Let us know in the comments.