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Dumb woman
Speak up

Open mouth, insert foot

The way you speak with friends may be inappropriate in a professional situation. Are you sabotaging your career with any of these words that make you sound less than intelligent?

11. Collaborate vs. corroborate

If you are verifying someone's story with evidence, it's corroborate. To work together is to collaborate.

12. Comprised of

This is a nonsensical phrase. Comprise means to contain. The U.S. comprises 50 states, which means it's composed of 50 states. The proper phrase is "composed of."

13. Controversial vs. contentious

If a person is difficult to deal with or is being stubborn, they're being contentious — not controversial.

14. Conversate

Definition: to speak with someone else

While used in a few dialects, this word remains nonstandard English. So while it may be accepted locally, in business, one should use "converse."

15.  (In good ) conscious

Conscious means awake. What you really wanted to say is "in good conscience." Conscience refers to your inner sense of right and wrong.

16. Could care less vs. couldn't care less

Definition: purportedly, ones inability to be less affected by something

The phrase is "couldn't care less," meaning there's nothing one could do or say to enable you to be more ambivalent.

17. Debark

Definition: to get off a plane or boat

The correct word is disembark. Debark is most commonly used to mean removing bark from a tree. You can also say "deplane" if referring to an aircraft.

18. Decimate

Definition: to destroy; exact a tax of 10 percent

Don't use it to describe something that's "completely destroyed."

19. Disinterested vs. uninterested

Many people say they're disinterested when they don't care about something. What they mean is "uninterested." Someone who's disinterested is an objective third party.

20. Drowneded

Drowned is the past tense of drowning. There's no need for an extra -ed.

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Comments on "100 Words that instantly make you sound dumber"

namo March 10, 2014 | 8:47 PM

"Could care less" is an idiom for goodness sake and is generally understood as such in much the same way that we all know that "fat chances" are the same as "slim ones" !!! This particular "correction" is popular but nonsensical for the reason stated and is,frankly, rather pretentious.

K January 20, 2014 | 4:02 PM

Heather Barnett, you really should have thought about your own knowledge of the English language before taking it upon yourself to write an article on correct word usage. It seems as though most of the comments here are corrections. Speaking of which, I have one more to add to that list. Saying "photographic memory" is okay when used correctly. You wouldn't automatically be wrong in saying that. It's true that it is often used interchangeably with the term "eidetic memory", but rest assured that these are, in fact, two different things.

Topher January 17, 2014 | 11:22 PM

#27 There is no such word as expresso. Coffee made in a French press is simply coffee.

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No name August 27, 2013 | 5:17 PM

Disregard my post about "contentious" -- I misread the entry. Sorry!

Sarah August 27, 2013 | 3:46 PM

In number 16, I think the writer means "apathetic" rather than "ambivalent."

No name August 27, 2013 | 2:57 PM

Many of these are good, but you're wrong about "contentious." One definition is "likely to cause an argument." In that sense, "controversial" is a synonym.

Warren August 14, 2013 | 2:08 AM

The writer of this piece misused the word "hopefully" in one of her examples. In my eyes, she seemed "less than intelligent" because of this.

May August 11, 2013 | 2:54 PM

Hmm, #51's example use of "ironically" is just a situation of bad luck; the two events are completely unrelated. How about "Ironically, Telisia had declared bankruptcy the day before learning of her $5 million lottery win" instead?

Linda July 25, 2013 | 6:19 PM

I always thought "orientated" was incorrect, until I looked it up. It is, indeed, correct.

teresa July 23, 2013 | 5:54 PM

How about "supposably" and "functionable"?

Lisa Mack July 23, 2013 | 12:16 PM

You're missing my favorite! Reinterate!!

Julie July 22, 2013 | 5:09 PM

And "verbiage" doesn't make it on either list, I'm gobsmacked...

Unita July 22, 2013 | 12:31 AM

Hi. This is very good. Please check #77 and #78, though....looks like we have the same explanation for both :)

Matt July 21, 2013 | 12:39 PM

Oh geez, look at #55: "OK in it's other uses..." Misuse of its and it's should be #1 on this list (yeah, it's alphabetical, but you know what I mean...)! I would call this ironic(al), but I'm sure somebody out there is ready to, um, school me on how that concept is itself misapplied.

Dixie July 17, 2013 | 8:31 PM

My husband and I argue over the use/meaning of the word attribute versus contribute. I say attribute means to give credit to but the dictionary shows both words to have such similar meanings that I don't know how to help him to understand that attribute is correct. Can you give me a good example of how each word should be used?

Rob Kaiser July 17, 2013 | 12:18 PM

Good list, but you left out "utilize."

Cristina Sierra July 17, 2013 | 10:16 AM

Heather, I want to point out a small error - Irregardless is not a word except in Boston where it IS a word but it is pronounced IrreGAHdless. No need for the "r". JK :-) Thanks for the list!

Candice July 17, 2013 | 8:24 AM

This is a great list! I just want to point out a quick mistake. Peruse means "to examine thoroughly," but people often use it as a synonym for skim.

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