21 Most Commonly Misused Phrases by Kyle Kirschbaum

by Kyle Kirschbaum

  1. “I could care less.”

    This incorrectly states the point you would be trying to make with the correct form of “I couldn’t care less.” You want to say there is nothing less important to you than that issue you are discussing. But when you say the wrong phrase you are saying there ARE things you care less about, making it important instead of the unimportant stance you want to emphasize.

  2. “Extract revenge.”

    Extracting revenge may be a level of torture you don’t want to go to. Extract means to remove, like extracting a wisdom tooth. You want to “exact revenge.” That means you want to achieve revenge.

  3. Deep seeded.”

    The correct phrase is “deep seated.” Seated in this sense means to be firmly established.

  4. “Honed-in.”

    The original term would be “homed-in” or home in on a goal, meaning to keep moving closer to accomplishing your objective. In recent years, some are accepting “hone in” as an alternative, so over time, the phrase may completely change from being incorrect to becoming the new correct form.

  5. Shoe-in.”

    The correct phrase originated in the early 1900s when the word shoo was used to mean to encourage someone or something. You would shoo away a fly, or, in this case, a “shoo-in” is a person you feel is certain to win, so you encourage them to go for it.

  6. “First-come, first-serve.”

    Again, it is only one letter away from being correct. The correct phrase is “first-come, first served.” Of course, it means the first to arrive is the first one served. The incorrect phrase would have the person serving instead of being served.

  7. “Emigrated to.”

    This is an easy mistake, but emigrate means to come from while immigrate means to go to. So the correct phrase would be “immigrated to.”

  8. “Slight of hand.”

    Slight means small, so this phrase as it is would mean small of hand. Instead “sleight of hand” is generally used in connection with magic or a conman because sleight means a deception.

  9. “One in the same.”

    This would actually mean the same within itself. Instead, “one and the same” refers to two (or more) things being very similar – two peas in a pod as it were.

  10. “Baited breath.”

    This one is humorous when you think about it. Baited – like fish bait – who would want such a thing? Of course, the correct phrase (another homonym) is “bated breath.” Bated means suspenseful or with anticipation – coming from the word abate – which means to stop.

  11. “For all intensive purposes.”

    Please don’t ever say this phrase. Even among the incorrect phrases, it feels out of place with how wrong it is. The correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes.” It originates from English law in the 1500s when the phrase was “to all intents, constructions, and purposes” and means effectively or officially.

  12. “By in large.”

    The correct phrase is “by and large.” The phrase came from old nautical terms and was first used in the early 1700s. There is no literal explanation for the term that makes clear sense today, but it is used much the same as “generally” would be used in a sentence. 

    Top 10 Misspelled Words by Kyle Kirschbaum  
  13. “Do diligence.”

    This is another homonym problem. “Due diligence” is a business term that has to do with making sure proper research has been done before making a decision. Due diligence is part of property and business sales as well as many other major transactions. This does not refer to doing something diligently. Rather, it refers to providing all the documents and paperwork necessary for one company so a decision can be made. The one company owes certain information to the other which, when it is received, gets what is “due” them.

  14. “Make due.”

    Much like item #14, the word “due” is incorrect in this phrase. Instead, “make do” is correct because when the phrase is used it refers to making use of what is already available without going out and getting more. If you were to “make due,” that would mean that you were saying something was owed, like a library book or an invoice.

  15. “Sneak peak.”

    For this item and also item #17, it is all about homonyms – peak (like a point, or mountain peak), peek (like a quick glance), and pique (like exciting or grabbing someone’s interest or appetite). So this phrase is “sneak peek” when it is correctly written.

  16. “Peaked my interest.”

    Check out the explanation in #16. If you are speaking the phrase, no one would know you if you are right or wrong, but if you write it, the correct spelling is “piqued my interest.”

  17. “Case and point.”

    The correct phrase, “case in point”, is derived from an Old French dialect and doesn’t really make sense if you read it literally, but it is a well-established phrase and is used to mean as an example, or i.e.

  18. “Wet your appetite.”

    If you are wondering why this is incorrect, you are not alone. Statistically, 56% of people get this one wrong. But it is actually “whet your appetite.” Whet as in a whetstone – because whet means to sharpen or enhance. So whetting someone’s appetite is to sharpen and build on their appetite, creating a desire for more.

  19. “Piece of mind.”

    If you are talking about finding a calm center within yourself, then this phrase is incorrect. The one you want is to have “peace of mind.” However, if you are getting ready to give someone a thorough tongue-lashing, then the phrase is giving them a “piece of your/my mind.”

  20. “Prostrate cancer.”

    Of course, it’s only one letter off, but prostrate means to be lying flat on the ground – often thought of in connection with grief or special supplication to a supreme being. Prostate, on the other hand, is a gland in the body that can have cancerous growth found in it.

  21. “Doggy-dog”

    – okay, maybe the smart people aren’t getting this one wrong, but still it is heard much too often. The correct phrase of course – say it with us now – is “dog eat dog.” As in, everyone will have to fend for themselves and the winner is going to be the one willing to do just that little bit extra.

Some of these phrases in the incorrect form make a certain sense, like “honed-in,” “deep-seeded,” or even “extract revenge” (if you are gung ho about revenge). In time, these may be accepted as correctly used phrases. Many of the phrases listed, however, are the opposite of what is intended, such as “I could care less,” or “make due.” For others, it is a simple case of different words sounding exactly the same. Whatever the reason, hopefully, you will be more cognizant in the future about using the correct terms when you are speaking and writing. Which ones have you caught yourself using wrong in the past?

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