Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Malapropisms and how to avoid them

What is a malapropism?

A malapropism occurs when a person confuses two words that sound similar and uses the wrong one.

Common examples in everyday use include:

PACIFIC (the ocean) instead of SPECIFIC (relating to a particular subject)

RAVISHING (very attractive) instead of RAVENOUS (very hungry)

EXASPERATE (to irritate) instead of EXACERBATE (to make worse)

The word malapropism is derived from the French phrase mal à propos, which translates as ill-suited.

Why do I need to avoid malapropisms?

Malapropisms can be humorous, which is fine if you intend to use them for comedic effect. Some people, however, use malapropisms in their everyday writing without even being aware of it. This is when it becomes a problem and can compromise your credibility.

How do I avoid malapropisms?
If you think you might be confusing one word for another, you can check its definition in the dictionary to be sure. Some spelling and grammar checkers may also pick up on, and query, the wrong use of a word. Unfortunately they can be inaccurate and I certainly wouldn't recommend relying on them.

Most malapropisms, however, are unintentional. For example, people who say pacifically, when they mean specifically often don't know they are wrong and write it exactly as they pronounce it.

For this reason it is always a good idea to ask someone to read your work before you send it out. By doing so you reduce the likelihood of any major mistakes and keep your reputation intact.

If you would like some professional help to identify malapropisms and other common writing mistakes, why not consider using my editing service? It's comprehensive, affordable and could save you from any embarrassment.

For a free, no obligation editing quotation please contact me today.

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