Choose the right words – sheer v shear

This will help you avoid using he wrong words – when the words are to be seen (not heard as in broadcast news)


It’s been a while since I’ve added to this site.  I started working for an Australian commercial television news program and  as I read news stories from many different sources (especially ‘print’ and on-line), I see lots of examples of word confusion – even from professional journalists who use words for a living.


TB headline technique

In television news (even though words are often to be heard not seen) mistakes still matter when words are presented on the screen  – in graphics or ‘supers’ or ‘strap lines’.

The mistake I saw today was confusing sheer and shear., The reporter wrote shear – when the word should have been sheer.

Shear can mean to cut the wool from a sheep or to break off  e.g. “the gear sheared and jammed in the rear wheel”

You can use the word sheer to describe:

  1. extremely thin fabric
  2. a perpendicular cliff
  3. nothing other than – e.g sheer delight

So I encourage you to be aware of the difference between sheer and shear when you write.


international-communication TB

In a previous job I helped people from ESL (English-as-a-Second-Language) backgrounds – and I saw plenty of examples of word confusion.

Working back in TV news I’m lucky to see plenty of examples of word confusion too – mainly due to the shear volume reporters have to produce.*

You need to know the difference between homonyms like sheer and shear (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and a have different meanings). Spell check often won’t pick up if you use the wrong word. From my experience, a large percentage of the audience watching television news is ‘more mature’.  They were probably taught the difference between shear and sheer.  To use the wrong word (where the word will be seen) would be shear madness.*






*deliberate mistakes to see if you noticed the incorrect use of sheer/shear!


Choose the right word – hoard or horde? An easy way to remember!

Choose the Right Words

I saw this word confusion mistake in the opening few lines of a magazine – to escape the HOARDS of travellers…

Spell check wouldn’t pick it up. Hoards is a proper word – just the wrong word in this context.

From my experience working with super-smart young people (far smarter than I am!), I find many young writers either:

1. don’t know what word to choose – when faced with similar words

2. don’t care about what word to choose. (We don’t know – our audience won’t know the difference – why care?)

If you DO care –

Horde (noun) – is a crowd or mass or large number

Hoard (noun) – is a stash or stockpile and (verb) to stash or create a stockpile.

There are TV shows about people who HOARD things.


So, the writer in the magazine should have written – to escape the HORDES of travellers.

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How little language mistakes can cause you big embarrassment!

Choose the Right Words

How little language mistakes can cause you  big embarrassment!

Don’t YOU appreciate when people point out your  wrong word mistakes? – discreetly of course!

 french 60s

I am eternally grateful to a French waiter who corrected me about my French pronunciation and choosing a similar-sounding word – but the WRONG word!

I was working as a piano-vocalist  in an elegant fine dining restaurant.

I was singing songs in French and  I thought I was so  classy and cool and cosmopolitan .

In reality  – I was embarrassing myself to anyone who spoke French.

And it all came down to how I pronounced a vowel sound.

I was supposed to be singing “pourtant” (however or still)  but they way I pronounced it sounded like a  less formal French word that means “prostitute”. So in this elegant restaurant I am proudly singing “PROSTITUTE”.

I am very grateful to…

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Don’t mess up in front of your PIERS! How to avoid embarrassing word mistakes in important business presentations >

Choose the Right Words

The important business presentation was very going well.

The presenter had the audience’s full attention – the graphs and numbers were impressive – but then, titters of laughter and a crash in credibility – all because of word confusion – one little mistake!

The presenter was talking about the effect of PEER group pressure – but on the screen, on the presentation was written PIER group pressure.

Some in the audience pointed out the mistake to others (accompanied with snickers and chortles and even mimed actions of reeling in a fish).

The presenter could feel the audience attention slipping away – his confidence was broken and he never recovered for the rest of the presentation.

word nerd CU

As a word nerd/business communication trainer I get paid to help make sure these mistakes don’t happen in business presentations.

I work with business people who are far smarter than I am. My talent is…

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Speaking English for Business – special help for Korea Pt 3 – B

Choose the Right Words

In this part of our series on helping people from Korean backgrounds pronounce English words we look at the B part of the A B C technique.

international-communication TB

Part A dealt with Awareness of the main pronunciation challenges for Koreans speaking English – link at the end of this post.

B – (this post) – deals with BRINGING FORTH and BOLDING the problem words.

If you (the speaker) have an electronic copy of your speech or your PowerPoint presentation – you can do a search for words with the problem sounds (discussed in Part 2) or you can go through your speech manually and mark the problem sounds.

Once you have brought forth and bolded the problem words you then:


2. Reduce

2. Rehearse until you master the problem sounds.

TB Social Media KLT

I’ve helped people from Korean backgrounds master problem words. The best illustrative examples…

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Speaking English for Business – special help for Korea Pt 1

Choose the Right Words

If you have trouble speaking English and pronouncing English sounds – you are not alone.

I help people from lots of different backgrounds – Japan, Korea, Russia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, China, Spain,  various South American countries (to name a few!)

international-communication TB

Many people who come to English from a different language, find it hard  to correctly pronounce certain sounds that are unfamiliar to their background. English speakers also often have trouble reproducing unfamiliar sounds from other languages.

I mainly help people quickly and effectively  improve their spoken English for Business presenting.

Other “teachers/trainers” are better if you want to cover English in other broader (beyond business) situations.

I will mainly come in and help people improve their Business English for business situations.

This post series concentrates on the challenges Koreans often have in speaking English.

From my experience with the Koreans I have helped, many can be very effective…

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Pet peeves and bugbears in cross-cultural communication

doubleshot media

When you communicate with people from other cultures, be careful about expressions that your audience may not understand.

Expressions such as pet peeves!


I’m currently in Singapore helping writers communicate effectively with people from different language backgrounds. My participants need to use English to communicate with people who have limited English.

This post applies to written messages AND live presentations.


When I train people, I always encourage them to ASK me to explain and clarify if I use an expression they are not familiar with.

In a recent session, someone asked what I meant by “Pet Peeve”. While most people in the session were familiar with the expression, the participant who asked thought Pet Peeve had something to do with animals.

I can understand why!

A Pet Peeve is: some annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to himself or herself. A Pet Peeve is particular to a person…

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