15 misused words that make smart people look foolish

Commonly Mispronounced Words

Do not let these common word mistakes trip you up.

My kids make up new words all the time. They are creative, their vocabulary is growing fast, and they cannot always conjure up the right word to describe their feelings or what they are after. But that is okay -- they are still learning. And new words are great for a laugh.

But you are an adult (even if people tell you that it's okay to express your inner child.) And the last thing you want is to sound like a child at the office. But with more than one million English words to choose from, there is plenty of room for error. And some commonly misused words make even the smartest people sound silly.

No one has perfect mastery of the language. At Aha! we work with thousands of the world's brightest product managers and innovators and still hear common word mistakes.

Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. Here are 15 commonly misused words, and the right way to use them.

1. Irregardless

I am not sure how "irregardless" crept into our vocabulary, but the correct word is "regardless."

2. Literally

This word means "exactly" and "without exaggeration," but many people use it to exaggerate a point. When you say "I literally died right there," you can understand the other person's shock to see you alive and well.

3. Excetera

The correct spelling and pronunciation is "et cetera." Remember that "et" is Latin for "and," while "cetera" means "the other things."

4. Supposably

It may be easier to say "supposably," but the correct spelling and pronunciation is "supposedly" with a "d."

5. Preemptory

The correct word is "peremptory," and it means "leaving no opportunity for refusal." You may confuse this word with "preempt," which means "to prevent."

6. Realator

The correct pronunciation and spelling is "realtor." There is no "a" in the middle.

7. Expresso

The correct spelling and pronunciation is "espresso" (even if you get your order really fast.)

8. Australia

Many people commonly pronounce it "Ostraya," leaving out the "l" sound.

9. Heighth

People tack on the "th" because of the similar words length and width. But the correct spelling and pronunciation is "height."

10. Anyways

It may seem like a small issue, but the correct word is "anyway."

11. Adverse vs. averse

These two words are easy to confuse because they both mean something negative. Adverse means "unfavorable," while "averse" means "having a feeling of dislike."
Example: "I had an adverse reaction to the medication." "She is averse to hard work."

12. There vs. their

People often confuse these two sound-alikes. "There" is a location, while "their" is a possessive.
Examples: "We are going there next week." "Their house was robbed while they were away."

13. Premise vs. premises

Some people think that "premises" is the plural form of "premise." "Premise" means an assumption, while "premises" is a building and surrounding lands.
Example: "The premise of the article was that the city's finances are in trouble." "We asked the man to leave the premises."

14. Affect vs. effect

These two words can be tricky, but remember that "affect" is usually a verb and "effect" is a noun that means "the result of something."
Example: "I wonder how the storm will affect our plans." "The storm had the effect of delaying all flights."

15. Irreverent vs. irrelevant

"Irreverent" means to "not take something seriously," while "irrelevant" means "not pertinent."
Example: "I appreciate your irreverent wit." "That fact is interesting but irrelevant to the case."

Like it or not, the way that you speak creates a positive or negative impression about you.

So do not let your words become a stumbling block -- and stand in the way of your success. You can improve your command of the language and communicate with more confidence.

Can you think of other words that people often confuse?

RELATED: 10 worst body language mistakes during interviews

10 worst body language mistakes during interviews
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15 misused words that make smart people look foolish

Body language expert Tonya Reiman, author of "The Power of Body Language," previously told Business Insider that job candidates should make sure they offer the "appropriate amount of eye contact." 

"If you don't, the interviewer will assume you are either insecure, don't have an appropriate answer for the question being asked, or are being deceptive. Does that mean it's true? No, but perception is everything in a job interview."

Reiman said smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy. 

"It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back. Without the smile, an individual is often seen as grim or aloof," she explained.

This may give the interviewer the impression that you're bored or uninterested in the conversation. Instead, keep your hands on the desk or table, and don't fidget.

In their book "Crazy Good Interviewing," John B. Molidor, Ph.D., and Barbara Parus suggest showing your palms during an interview — since the gesture indicates sincerity — or pressing the fingertips of your hands together to form a church steeple. which displays confidence, reports Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz.

Reiman previously told Business Insider you should always be aware of your posture.

"People don't realize that the job interview begins in the waiting room, but it does. So don't slouch in the chair in the reception area," she advised. "In order to be perceived as confident, you must sit or stand tall, with your neck elongated, ears and shoulders aligned, and chest slightly protruding."

This position changes the chemicals in our brain to make us feel stronger and more confident, and it gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality, she explained.

Playing with your hair, touching your face, or any other kind of fidgeting can be a major distraction for your interviewer. It also demonstrates a lack of power, said Reiman.

This gesture will tell the interviewer you're not comfortable or you're closed off. 

"You should always keep your hands in view when you are talking," Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of "SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and Charisma," previously told Business Insider. "When a listener can't see your hands, they wonder what you are hiding." To look honest and credible, keep your arms uncrossed and show your hands.

"When we touch our faces or hair, it is because we need self soothing,"Reiman explained.

Is that the message you want to send to your interviewer

A weak handshake may tell the interviewer that you're nervous, shy, and that you lack confidence, explains Colin Shaw, CEO of Beyond Philosophy, a customer experience consultancy, in a LinkedIn post

Ideally, your handshake should be firm, but not overbearing. "The secret to a great handshake is palm-to-palm contact," Wood told Business Insider. You want to slide your hand down into the web of theirs, and make palm-to-palm contact. Lock thumbs, and apply an equal amount of pressure.

"It's okay to use your hands to illustrate a few important points," writes Lebowitz. "In fact, research suggests that staying too still can give the impression of coldness. 

"But relying too much on hand gestures can be distracting, according to Molidor and Parus."

She says you should remember you're in a job interview, not a theater audition. 

People tend to show their dominating personality by gripping the interviewer's hand and palming it down, but this tells the interviewer that you need to feel powerful, Reiman explained. "Instead, the handshake should be more natural: thumbs in the upward position and two to three pumps up and down."

As the applicant, you should always wait for the interviewer to extend their hand first, she added. 


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