Are you guilty? Common word and phrase crimes we commit

I'm guilty of word crime. Are you too? (Jack Dennis)


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Violating grammar rules is one of my un-favorite pastimes. I even want to spell ‘pastimes’ with two t’s. My 12th grade high school teacher, Mrs. Allen—bless her heart, may she Rest in Peace—could attest to the fact that I am guilty as sin when it comes to being disrespectful to the English language. Somehow, through the years, I chalked it up to the who, what, when, why, where and hows of my upbringing and managed to survive despite the disability.

In front of crowds of three to over 10,000 people, I know good and well that I have despoiled many of those rules, especially when it comes to using words that sound completely different from what were meant to appear. Despite Mrs. Allen’s hesitancy and strong doubtfulness, I marched on anyway (or anyhow?) and have been a successful writer for newspapers, magazines, publications and blogs for over four decades.

25 common phrases that you are saying wrong. (NL)

When I first began giving speeches in the 1980s , a wise mentor and boss, Ralph G. Mehringer, gave me the best advice“Just be yourself, Jack. Don’t try to be a Cary Grant, a Walter Conkrite, or a Johnny Carson. Your value is to deliver your message to each individual out there so it impacts them personally. To do that, you just need to be your good, enthusiastic, friendly self.”

My father, Walter Dennis, also taught me and thing or two about communication. Daddy was an officer for the San Antonio Police Department, homicide detective, an original crime profiler and later, a U.S. Marshal. It was critical to fact gathering that he focused on listening to others in a way not most of us do.

“When you listen with curiosity, don’t just listen with the intent to reply,” he’d remind me.  Then he would whisper, “Listen for what’s behind the words. Besides, when you are busy listening, that means that have to reveal more.”

That was a serious message for an aspiring writer. A writer not only communicates, he/she listens. But part of the fun of writing and listening is observing and thinking about the things we say. Here are some favorite phrases I’ve heard–and possibly been guilty of–that could be construed as being said or put into the wrong context.

“You’ve got another thing coming vs. you’ve got another think coming?”

Accident (NL)

On or By Accident?

When you do something accidentally, or not on purpose, that means you do something “by accident” as opposed to “on accident.” However, you do something “on purpose.”


Espresso (NL)

Espresso Is Coffee, Not Something Fast

“Espresso” is the name of the type of coffee roast. “Expresso” doesn’t mean anything, although it sounds like you might catch the “expresso” bus to work, or you might “expresso” your feelings.


Who let the dogs out?

Who Let the Dogs Out?

You might hear the words “dog-eat-dog world” and they come out as “doggy dog world.” A dog-eat-dog world means it’s tough out there, much like knowing proper English phrasing.



Conversations and Dialogue

When you say you talk about something, the right expression is, “We were conversing.” The word “conversating” doesn’t exist, even though it sounds fancy.


11:11 (NL)

What Time is it? 

“It’s Daylight Saving Time. Not Daylight Savings Time. Hell, yes, stuff like that bugs me. It matters,” posted Paul Alexander, a man I have respected since 1976, on November 3, 2017 at 7:28 am, to Facebook. I’m listening Paul. I’m listening.


Don’t Take for Granite

Enchanted Rock, near Fredericksburg, TX (Jack Dennis)

“Don’t take me for granted” refers to someone’s lack of respect or regard for someone. Unfortunately, many people may hear “granite” instead of “granted.” Granite is the type of rock I hike on in central Texas.



Regardless of the Double Negative

“Regardless” means “without regard.” The word “irregardless” is the opposite of “regardless” because of the prefix “ir” attached to the front. The “ir” cancels out the original definition of regardless and it indicates you do find concern for something (I’m not even sure if that made sense).


The Purpose of Your Intent

When someone says it quickly, “for all intents and purposes” does sound like “for all intensive purposes.” The former phrase is correct, and it indicates you cover all possibilities and circumstances in a situation or scenario.


Caring Is Sharing

If you want to express your feelings of complete apathy, you might say “I couldn’t care less.” When you say “I could care less,” you actually talk about some minimal level of regard you show for someone or something.


Can you think of others? If so, please comment below.

P.S. Can you find the grammar mistake in this article? I can’t.


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