Seven Misused and Misspelled Words

A few “factoids” about often confused words and taking “gorilla” marketing to a new level.

Basic English grammar isn’t very basic, is it?

Our language evolves and changes. We’re constantly adding words from other languages and technology, not to mention that our rules and pronunciations are freakishly inconsistent. (If you don’t agree, try teaching a new student why the words go and to are pronounced differently.)

It’s understandable that misused words, commonly misspelled words and writing mistakes happen.

But in the business world, your professional credibility might be at stake if you misuse any of these often confused words:

Rapport / Report

A report is an account or statement giving the details of a situation or observation. Reports are about information and data.

Rapport is having a personal connection and a feeling of camaraderie or chemistry. Rapport is about feelings. When this one gets mixed up, report is generally pronounced with a silent “t” in an effort to at least mimic the correct pronunciation.

The candidate reported back to tell me that he felt a great rapport with the interviewer.

Angel / Angle

An angel (with a soft g) is a heavenly being. An angle (with a hard g) is a geometric shape where two sides meet, and it’s also a point of view.

If you are a founder of a startup, your top priority will be to find the right angle to pitch to angel investors who have the money you need.

Gorilla / Guerrilla

A gorilla is a great ape found in Africa. A guerrilla is a soldier who fights by taking the enemy by surprise.

Marketers use the term guerilla marketing for their nontraditional methods of finding cheap and unexpected ways to sneak up on customers marketing campaigns. I’m not sure what gorilla marketing is, but if the photo above is an example, it’s probably not a great business idea and bananas are optional.

Jay Conrad Levinson teaches about guerilla marketing campaigns and helping companies get noticed, even if it means having a flash mob of people dressed up in gorilla suits.

Forward / Foreword

Forward is the direction ahead of you and it also means presumptuous or bold. A foreword is that short introductory section of a book that you probably skip past, usually written by someone else who says wonderful things about the author (note the word “word” in this one).

Moving forward with your book launch, it might be a tad forward to ask Oprah to write the foreword since she has no idea who you are.

Alter / Altar

Alter means to modify or change, like when you have the tailor take in your new suit or you ask the accountant to modify the budget you’re submitting in the business plan. An altar is a place where religious rites are performed and where you get married.

Some people seem to worship at the altar of money, and they don’t know that if they alter their values and their lifestyle, they’ll get much more out of life in the long run.

Anecdote / Antidote

An antidote is the medicine you (hopefully) have available when a poisonous snake bites you. If the antidote helps you survive, the funny or entertaining story you tell about it later is an anecdote.

The client said “let me share a little antidote” and I was tempted to ask him if he’d slipped me some poison. At least the anecdote that followed gave me a new joke for my standup comedy act.

Fact / Factoid

Most people think a factoid is a little-known or trivial piece of information but in fact, the word factoid was coined in the 1970s by Norman Mailer. The Washington Times described a factoid as “something that looks like a fact, could be a fact, but in fact is not a fact.”

We embedded so many factoids in that ad campaign, we have people convinced that they’ll be healthier if they eat more candy.

In other words, a factoid is a misconception or misrepresentation, not a piece of trivia. If it’s simply something an interesting little tidbit of information, you can just call it a fact or, well, a piece of trivia.

This may be one of those words that’s evolving, but now that you know what it’s supposed to mean, feel free to use it the right way.

Thanks to Leslie Ayres