Are you clear?

Do you know which word to use?

Did you know that Roger Federer speaks 8 languages and Novak Djokovic speaks 11 languages?

In case you’re unfamiliar with these names, they’re both tennis players and in the tennis world, they are legends.

Serving an ace

Do you serve an ace each time you write?

I enjoy watching the major tennis tournaments at every opportunity.

It is both a physical and mentally challenging sport. The players need to be in peak form to perform at their best. In addition, many of the players speak multiple languages, which is necessary due to the amount of travelling that is required of them and especially if English is not their first language.

I’m always impressed at how quickly people who speak multiple languages are able to switch between the languages.

Have you ever tried to learn a second language?

Only then do we, as English speakers, appreciate the difficulty and confusion caused by our first language to those people who learn it as a second language.

Yet, many people who only speak English still find it difficult to use the correct word in the correct context.

This is often highlighted when writing in the business world. So although we’d like to think that we can serve an ace each time we write, the reality is that there will be times when we don’t.

Imagine receiving an email which made you stop and question its message.

And this is all because some words were used incorrectly.

Would you be inclined to take the action the sender had requested?
Feeling confused

A confused mind says ‘no’.

Or what about the reverse? Is it possible that you could have sent an email that may have confused the receiver… and in turn they didn’t act on the email as you had hoped?

What is the result of a confused mind?

A confused mind induces a sense of paralysis when it comes to action. Or in terms of decision making, the answer is usually ‘no’. To avoid this confused state, it’s important to be as clear as possible in the choice of words used.

Let’s look at how this confusion can be minimised.

English can be a confusing language, even for a native speaker.

A simple technique to use is to simply read the sentence out loud to hear how the word sounds within the sentence. If it doesn’t sound quite right then check its meaning to make sure that it makes sense within the sentence.

Here are three sets of words that are often used incorrectly. Included are their meanings and the correct use in a sentence.

Confusing WordsMeaningExample
Presume vs Assume
PresumeTo suppose that something is the case based upon probability.I presumed that the man had been escorted from the building.
AssumeTo suppose to be the case without proof.Topics which assume detailed knowledge of local events.
Accept vs Except
AcceptTo receive or undertake.He accepted a temporary role as an administrative assistant.
ExceptTo not include.They work every day except Sunday.
Bought vs Brought
BoughtPast participle of ‘to buy’.
To obtain in exchange for payment.
David bought a new car.
BroughtPast participle of ‘to bring’.
To take or go with someone.
Elizabeth brought Alan home from the hospital.

Are any of these pairs of words, ones that you use incorrectly?

If you know that you regularly use particular words incorrectly, such as one of the pairs listed above, keep a list of those words with their meanings in an easily accessible location to check when needed.

To help you, I’ve included two more articles about confusing words below that contain lists of words and how to use them in the correct context. They may be worth bookmarking for future reference.

Using these simple tips will help you to refine your writing.

So the next time you’re tempted to use a word that can cause confusion, stop and check that you’re using it in its correct context.

By doing so, you’ll have a greater chance of being in peak form with your writing and serving an ‘ace’ each time.

Are there words that confuse you? Share them below.

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Next…

Here are 2 more articles to help you use the correct word in the correct context in your writing:

Interested in a self-study course that gives you a solid foundation in business writing?

Business Writing Made EasyThe Business Writing Made Easy self-study writing course covers the areas of planning, writing and reviewing all types of documents, including emails. Each module is presented in bite-sized pieces of learning, enabling you to practise and apply the techniques quickly to your own documents. Even though it’s a self-study course, it has real-time support as you work through each module. Contact me to discuss your needs.

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Learn About This Author

Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the author of Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders. Maria works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. She provides tailored programs in presentation skills, business writing and effective communication as a leader and team member. Maria’s programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.

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