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Don't Embarrass Yourself Saying These 12 Commonly Misstated Phrases The easiest way to sound very smart is to not repeat the dumb things everybody else says all the time.

By John Rampton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It's not just parents that continually misuse words and use embarrassing phrases. The thing is that business owners are often just as guilty when it comes to using phrases they think mean one thing but are not entirely appropriate for the situation in which they are being used.

Here are 12 zingers that I personally use incorrectly all the time. Fix them so you don't embarrass yourself in front of customers, employees, and/or investors:

“I did what I was suppose to.”

This is not a correct way to use the word, "suppose." In this case, it should be "supposed." "I did what I was supposed to." Get the "d" sound in there.

“For all intensive purposes, we should consider something else.”

This is incorrect usage, especially for such a widely known adage. "For all intensive purposes," is wrong. What you really should be saying is "For all intents and purposes."

Related: 9 Phrases Smart People Never Use In Conversation

.“I will look into it farther.”

It's a mistake to use the word, "farther," in this case because farther is about a physical distance. Instead, this phrase should say, "I will look into it further." Further means exploring or studying something in an in-depth way. (You want to toss that baseball farther.)

“It’s first come, first serve here.”

By saying it this way, you are actually saying that the first person to show up will then be serving all those that follow. In reality, what you want to say is "first-come, first-served" so that those that hear you say it realize that the person who shows up first will be the first one to be served.

“We need to hone in on our goals.”

This is a confusing phrase because the word, "hone," actually means to sharpen. While you can hone your skills, you don't necessarily want to sharpen a set of goals. Instead, the correct phrase is, "We need to home in on the problem," which means to focus on or move toward. There is nothing correct about saying "hone in on" for any meaning. So, we will hone our skills and home in on our goals.

“Fewer than half of our customers liked the new product.”

You would either say, "Fewer customers liked the new product," or you could opt for, "Less than half of our customers liked the new product."

"Fewer'' applies to a set number while "less" applies to an amount.

Related: Please Stop Saying These Ridiculous Phrases at Work

“The issues appear to be deep-seeded.”

While it may seem to make sense that seeded might be related to the roots of something, in reality, if a seed is sown too deep, it won't grow. You should be saying "deep-seated," and it is usually used with a hyphen. The use of the term, "deep-seated," means that something is firmly established or entrenched.

“I could care less.”

This is so commonly said in conversations that many may not even realize that they are misusing a phrase. What this misused phrase is saying is that somewhere there is still a care that could be given at some point. However, if you want to let people know that you are maxed out on empathy, (and every other nerve is frazzled), the correct term would be "I couldn't care less."

If you have found yourself saying, "irregardless," then you are essentially not even using a real word. It's what happens when people put "irrespective" and "regardless" together. What you really should have done is used one or the other of these words rather than combining them. So, the sentences would be, "People all have trouble come upon them irrespective of whether they deserve it or not." And, "Regardless of the facts you have presented, I also have factual information that will have an impact on our business."

“Did you emigrate to America?”

It helps to remember if you say that "all Americans are immigrants." (all but the Native American, of course. All other people have come from somewhere else.) "Did you immigrate to America?" Immigrants come in (both start with "i"). Emigrants exit (both words start with an "e").

“The two ideas are one in the same.”

They might be the same ideas, but what you really should say is "The two ideas are one and the same."

“I don’t need none.”

This is just one example of a double negative that makes for a misused phrase. There are many more one liners like this which are misused, and the way to avoid them is to learn that two negatives do not necessarily make a positive sentence. To fix this type of phrase, it would be correct to say, "I don't need any." One negative has been replaced with a positive. Some people know the correct speech pattern in a sentence like this, but will say this sentence to be funny. That is completely fine...except in a business situation (of any kind).

It is interesting

It is interesting to note that people have heard these common sayings wrong so many times that sometimes the correct usage will sound incorrect. Watch (this is fun) some of your employees will look a little startled or confused and later you will notice them looking up the word or phrase on their cell phones or computer. By using the correct sentences you have doubled your message, once when you said it, and again when they look it up. Keep in mind when you're correcting the problem, it takes 21 days to form a new habit so force yourself for 21+ days of using them daily and it'll start to stick.

Whether you are saying these phrases to others in a meeting or casual conversation or you have used them in writing, make sure you are not embarrassing yourself by misusing these phrases but are, instead, going with the correct versions listed here. I have a friend who always says, "I was nearly up to cloud seven," instead of, "on cloud nine." Whether you are using an adage, maxim, or idiom, you do not want to appear ignorant of correct language use as a business owner-despite the fact that so many words are commonly misused everyday.

Related: 15 Body Language Secrets of Successful People

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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