Weather or whether? Another common word confusion problem: Here’s an easy way to remember the difference

Choose the Right Words

Do you have much contact with business people in their twenties?

word nerd CU

I get to work with lots of talented young people. They amaze and impress me with their  confidence and talent and ease with technology. They are so much faster and capable that I am with technology.

But there’s  still one area where they look to me for help. One area where the “village elder” is of value – knowing “the old ways” of the written word.

Sometimes these young people need to communicate with “older generations” – people in authority in business or clients or customers who care about correctness in writing – things such as spelling and using the correct word.

I’m often called in – just to make sure these super-smart young people get the little things right with their word choice.

Often I pick up mistakes that spell check wouldn’t catch – mistakes such as…

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The vial errors in modern newspaper writing. More examples hear >

Choose the Right Words

This post was inspired by a media friend who spotted an error in a mainstream newspaper – an article  about students buying “viles of drugs from overseas” – confusing the words vial and vile.


I argue that many people who still read newspapersdead-tree papers  or online versions  – know and care about reporters using the correct words.

I understand that smart, young reporters are skilled in so many ways that previous generations of journalists were not.

Yet many young writers do not know the difference between similar words – vial/vile, peer/pier, piece/peace and even weather/whether.

To be fair – I don’t know the age of the person who made the VILE/VIAL error. It could have been an older writer!

I just know that I often need to help younger reporters remember the correct words to use. They were not taught what previous reporters were taught as…

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Why you need to be careful with shades of meaning – don’t make this mistake

Choose the Right Words

How would YOU react?

What would YOU think if you got this message:


My friend Melissa Karydas* told me this interesting story about someone who used “the right word in the wrong context”.


By that expression – I mean a word that is technically correct as s synonym– yet inappropriate in the wrong context.

The person from an ESL background (English as  s Second Language) was trying to be friendly.

He was also trying to use other words that mean friendly.

One of those words he tries using was: intimate

Here are some standard definitions of intimate



associated in close personal relations: an intimate friend.
characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association orfeeling: an intimate greeting.
very private; closely personal: one’s intimate affairs.
characterized by or suggesting privacy  warmly cozy: an intimate little café.
(of an association, knowledge, understanding, etc.) arising from close personal connection or familiar experience.
So this writer wanted to be closer friends and wrote to a girl the message at the start of this post:
I want to be…

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Learning a language? Don’t be a meatball – beware of “false friends” like these >

Choose the Right Words


Have you heard of false friends when you are learning a different language?

Words that look or sound familiar and similar to words in your own language.

But be careful – these false friends DO NOT mean the same as the words you think they are.

Here are real-life examples a lawyer from the US shared with me!

A Spanish-speaking friend of his kept telling everybody she was CONSTIPATED.

Yeah, that’s usually something you keep to yourself!

She actually meant she was feeling CONGESTED in the head and the Spanish word for congested is CONSTIPADO.

Hence, you can understand her thinking the similar word in English was CONSTIPATED – and her telling everyone how CONSTIPATED she was!

English speakers often joke about people who are learning English using the wrong words.

It’s often the subject of humour – as in the jokes about Spanish-speaking Gloria from Modern…

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Warning: do NOT make THis embarrassing mistake with THis Challenging Sound

Choose the Right Words

My female friend was shocked, frightened and offended by the man’s rude remark.


When the man saw the worried expression on my friend’s face – he knew he had said something wrong.

He desperately tried to gesture to make his meaning clear – YOUR TEETS – I LIKE YOUR TEETS. YOUR BEAUTIFUL TEETS!

He moved closer to explain. She moved back in fear – then she understood.

YOUR TEETS – he said pointing to his own TEETS (his teeth)

You see, this man suffered from  what is a common problem for many people who speak English as a Second Language.

Many ESL speakers (Including Turkish and Hindi and  French and German) have trouble saying the sound TH. The sound does not exist or is not common in their language.

So I recommend that you:

1.practise until you master the TH sound or

2.add a…

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Great tip for French (and other) speakers on how to make that difficult English TH sound

Choose the Right Words

If you are from a French background here is a great tip on how to make that difficult TH sound.

French Flag

The tip also applies to people from many other language backgrounds who are not used to pronouncing the TH sound.

In an earlier post I wrote about how not being able to make the TH sound caused lots of embarrassment with a man alarming a young woman by telling her she had NICE TEETS! Of course he meant teeth – but he had trouble with the TH sound.

Anyway, I got this great tip from an experienced French teacher – who up until she was 20 didn’t speak English.

I wanted to know how she mastered the TH sound.

I have several wonderful French friends and I listen carefully to them when they speak English.

Zey are highly educated and yet Zey find it hard to say Zis

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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…

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