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5 Words You’re Probably Using Incorrectly

Did you know “anyways” is not a word? And “factoid” doesn’t mean a small piece of information?

ANXIOUS

Wrong meaning: Excited, eager

Right meaning: In a fit of nervousness, considering all that could go wrong

If you say you are anxious to get your new puppy or to start your vacation in Florida, you are saying you are anticipating these things with dread, fear or — as the word implies — anxiety. You are likely just eager to do those things.

Use eager when you are excited for or about something: “I’m so eager for my week off at Christmas!” and anxious when you are dreading something: “She was anxious to get the call back from her doctor.”

INFAMOUS

Wrong meaning: Very famous

Right meaning: Well known for a bad quality or deed; wicked, abominable

Infamous is NOT a synonym for famous and shouldn’t be used that way, though I see this mistake a lot and often in mainstream media. It is the adjective form of infamy, and both words refer to an evil or scandalous history; a shameful or disgraceful reputation. Your grandma’s pumpkin pie is not infamous unless there is something Grandma’s not telling us. It’s just famous.

If you’re talking about Dr. Christopher Duntsch, the infamous “Dr. Death” whose malpractice resulted in the death and maiming of 33 patients at Dallas-area hospitals, well, then you’re using infamous correctly.

WHOSE

What you might mean: WHO’S

This one is frustratingly popping up everywhere, but it’s truly very easy to know the difference. I keep seeing phrases like “Whose hungry?” or “Whose ready for college football?” Ask yourself if you mean who + is, and then you know it should be “Who’s hungry” and “Who’s ready for college football?”

“Whose” is the possessive of the pronoun who and is used like this: “Whose sandwich is this?” or “Whose puppy is that?” You wouldn’t say “Who is sandwich is this?” or “Who is puppy is that?” So you know “whose” — one word — is correct.

ANYWAYS

What you mean to say: ANYWAY

I recently did a poll on Instagram Stories asking my followers if they knew that “anyways” is not a word. A whopping 46% of the 180 people who voted said “no.” People use “anyways” in conversation more than in writing, but it’s incorrect in any form. “Anyways” is incorrect because you’re implying you can choose one of the many “ways,” which makes the choice singular and “anyway” the only grammatically correct word. “Anyways” is colloquially used but universally considered to be nonstandard.

Anyway can mean besides: “I am too late now, anyway,” or “Can I have your sweatshirt? It doesn’t fit you anyway!” Anyway can also mean despite something or even so: “I didn’t need the extra money, but I took the job anyway” or “You knew what would happen, but you did it anyway.”

AFFECT

What you might mean: EFFECT

This is a tricky one, especially because they sound so similar. But knowing this difference in your writing can really make you look sharp! Effect is usually a noun: “cause and effect” or “the positive effects of exercise.” Affect is almost always a verb that means to influence someone or something: “We can affect change through our VOTE!” or “These low temperatures affect my garden.”

Sometimes this difference is very nuanced, like in these two sentences:

Liza’s leadership positively affects our team. Something/someone affects (verb) something/someone else

Liza’s leadership has many positive effects on our team. Something/someone experiences the effects (noun) of something/someone

If something works well, it is “effective.” “Affective” is only used in psychology, for example, affective mood disorders.

There are exceptions to this rule.

“Affect” can be used as a noun — albeit rarely in normal conversation — when referring to psychology. It refers to the mood of a person, much like “affective mood disorders.” Example: “She demonstrated a happy affect.”

“Effect” can be used as a verb and means “to bring about.” The word “change” will typically follow “effect” used as a verb. Example: “Both candidates promise to effect change on the country.”

SOME RUNNERS-UP (NOT RUNNER-UPS!)

Literally – We use this to show exaggeration, though it literally means the opposite. You’re hopefully not “literally dying laughing right now.” Literally means actually, without exaggeration: “There are literally billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.”

Irregardless – This was made famous (or should we say infamous) by Mean Girls, and people are using it so much that some are pushing for its inclusion in the English lexicon. NO! This is not a word. You mean regardless.

Factoid – This means an assumption or speculation that’s been reported so often it is accepted as fact, NOT a small fact!

By Zoe Yarborough, first published on https://styleblueprint.com/ October 26, 2020