Word Choices That Make PR Pros Scream


Have you ever seen the movie Idiocracy? Probably not, but you should. It’s about a society that becomes dumbed-down by mass commercialism and mindless TV in 2505. Fret not; this type of idiocracy will take over our nation much sooner.

If you’re frustrated with hearing or reading poor diction, you’re not alone. Let’s band together and take a stand against poor word choices!

Here are the biggest offenders (because they are used incorrectly…or they’re just not real words):

“Have a bless day!” – Bless is a verb. Blessed is an adjective. Correct: “Have a blessed day”

Ax/ask – An ax is a tool for chopping wood. “Ask” is a verb that means “to pose a question.”

Lost/loss/lose/loose – “I almost lost my mind yesterday.” “What a huge loss for the Giants last Sunday!” “I am going to lose my mind.” “Someone’s dog is running loose in the streets.”

Escape/excape – This one is easy. “Excape” is not a word.

Converse/Conversate – Another easy example. “Conversate” is not a word.

IRREGARDLESS – “Regardless” is the correct term. “Irregardless” is not a word. It should never be used. Ever.

Then/than – They may sound alike, but “then” indicates sequence, “Read each sentence to yourself, then read it aloud.” “I like the color red more than the color pink.”

To/too – “I’d love to attend the next BPRS-NY event!” “You’re never wrong for arriving too early.”

Their/they’re/there – “Don’t you love their dog?” “They’re going to be there on Tuesday.” “There she is!”

Who/whom – “Who’s going to be there?” He is. “Whom does the line belong to?” It belongs to him. “Who” matches an answer with “he” or “she.” “Whom” matches an answer with “him” or “her.”

Affect/effect – “Affect” is a verb; “effect” is a noun. Affect deals with influence, while effect deals with a result. “Reading greatly affects our vocabulary and grammar.” “There are opinions on social media’s effect on grammar.”

Compliment/Complement – “Compliment” is a verb; “complement” is a noun. “Victor complimented my dress yesterday.” “Cheese is a great complement for wine.”

“I’d love to be apart of it!” – The meaning does not match the intent. “Apart” infers separation, not participation. Correct: “I’d love to be a part of it.”

We must do better! Here are some tips to avoid poor word choices:

  • Do not ditch proper grammar on social media.
  • Grammar does matter. A slip on a resume, cover letter or during an interview or networking session can cost you a career opportunity.
  • People will judge you.
  • Reading more will help you to write and speak better.
  • Do not solely rely on Spelling and Grammar check. Proofread!

What are your word choice pet peeves? Let us know!

Simone Thomas - PhotoSimone Thomas is a marketing manager at Verizon and the Vice President of the Black Public Relations Society-NY Chapter. Simone is a marketing and communications professional with over eight years of experience managing events, employee communications, social media, positioning, and target market identification. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Boston University and a Masters in Business Administration in Marketing and Communications Media Management from Fordham University. Simone owns Plum Public Relations, a PR firm serving small businesses and non-profit organizations.