Don’t step into this BEAR TRAP of Business English word confusion!

“More mature”* business people can tend to take proper spelling for granted.

Younger business people think spell check will save them from the bear traps of  word confusion!

But what about word confusion between similar words? Like BARE and BEAR?

Did you know BARE and BEAR have so many meanings – and in the business world (especially in finance, law and insurance) – many people use the wrong BARE!


Please bear in mind that many people from younger generations were taught the bare minimum of English  grammar and spelling (they had so many other things to learn!)

For bosses – the bad spelling and word confusion can be  more than they can bear.

A boss can  get annoyed –  “like a bear with a sore head”!

More mature* generations had spelling drummed into them at school.

(*”More mature” is a more polite  way of saying “older” – the  younger boomers  and Gen X-ers).

I know I had spelling drummed into me and I vividly remember the memory devices my wonderful teachers used!

TB training group

Now, I help lots of super-smart “younger” workers who are so good at most  parts of their jobs – yet they struggle with word confusion and often get sound-a-like words mixed up.

Also, many people from ESL backgrounds (English as a Second Language) get similar words mixed up.

Insurance Policy

Take for example an insurance organisation’s writing:

“The insured BARES the onus of proofing… “

I’m often brought in to help staff

1. be aware of the word confusion mistakes

2. remember  how to choose the right words – including knowing whether to use BARE or BEAR.

I understand how people can get the words mixed up – especially since a BEAR sang the famous song “The BARE Necessities” In Disney’s The Jungle Book.

My “theory” is so many kids grow up watching that movie. I know I did, my brother’s kids did, and my kids did too. No wonder people associate BARE necessities with a BEAR!


I use simple memory techniques to help people remember which word  (BARE or BEAR) to use in different circumstances.


The bAre necessities or the bAre minimum  –  when you have only the bAsics

Where something is uncovered or nAked – once again it’s bAre.

I get people to think of the bAre with an A by remembering the

Canadian group:     bAre nAked lAdies.

They write the name this way:

Barenaked ladies


Even if the  younger business people I help  are too young to be aware of bAre nAked lAdies – they have probably heard of the current and famous theme song they perform =

big bAng theory.

Then there’s barefoot – no covering of the feet – or bAre nAked Feet.

As in the Barefoot Investor

Then there’s also: to bArely make it or  I bArely finished  or I bArely recognised you

Just more than Adequate – just mAde it

2. BEAR – there are many BEAR words


bEar –  can refer to the bear the crEature that lives in a forEst and can Eat you. (I have to find words with prominent Es rather than As!)

bear can also mean  to to carry a burdEn or  wEight    or to suffEr  or Endure something.

Bear is often used in business for expressions such as:

bear the responsibility

or bear the onus

or bear in mind 

I explain in most  office-based business situations (except BARE as in bAsic) you will use BEAR.

With the expression: bear in mind – it means kEEp in mind or rEmEmbEr.

When it means to  suffEr or Endure something (often painful) I use the memory sentence:”

I can’t bEAR this EAR ache!

There are also the bear words related to dirEction:

get your BEARINGS/Lose your bearings

BEAR right


Bearings can also be mEtal balls

With so many BEARs and BAREs  – you can see how confusing English can be so confusing?


My good friend Melissa Karydas created a visual learning system  called Looking Learning to help teach her daughter how to remember confusing words like bear and bare.

Mel + G

I’m suggesting to Melissa that we team up and  combine our experience and create a similar visual learning device for executive and business English – because learners (OF ALL ages)  remember better with VISUALS. Sometimes you use the visuals in combination with audio and physical (touching/hands-on) learning.

My son learns best “through his hands” and visuals. He doesn’t remember if something is taught with “just words in the air”.

I get him physically make the words out of Scrabble tiles and then remember the image of the word he created! And it works!

It’s great how my corporate work helps with my kids’ homework – and vice versa!

scrabble spelling

So back to Business English!

In the example:

“The insured BARES the onus of or proofing… “

it should be the word BEARS.

I’m aware these memory devices may sound childish and simplistic – but please BEAR in mind that very clever clever business people find the devices easy to recall.

If your organisation would like help in making sure your people choose and use the right words – please feel free to contact me.

I can analyse samples of your writing to find the problem words OR you can tell me the common problem words and I can come up with visual ways to help your people remember.

word nerd CU

I’m used to working in complex high-level professions (law, finance, insurance, engineering) – and simple memory devices help people remember how to  choose the right words and avoid embarrassing mistakes.


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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.


tony biancotti


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2 thoughts on “Don’t step into this BEAR TRAP of Business English word confusion!

  1. Pingback: Don’t be a “looser” – remember the difference between loose and lose | Choose the Right Words

  2. Pingback: Younger workers are smart with technology – but many are “dangerously dumb” with this… | efangelist

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