Ulla de Stricker, de Stricker Associates

Following on her piece in the July 2013 issue, Ulla de Stricker offers additional examples of common but easily avoidable errors in English language usage.

Locate or find? Depends—are we talking place or discovery?

WRONG: Users say they can’t locate the information they need on the intranet.
CORRECT: Users say they can’t find the information they need.

“Locate” means “place, situate”: The architects want to locate a secondary entrance on the building’s south side. The restrooms are located at the end of the hallway.

“of a”: Av-oid the combination! (Take my word: Just avoid it!)

WRONG: I am not that good of a dancer. It was that critical of a situation …
CORRECT: I am not that good a dancer. The situation was so critical … It was such a critical situation …

Issue-ificationdon’t we have enough issues already?

GRATING: How many issues are on the agenda?
APPROPRIATE: How many items are on the agenda?

“Issue” means difficulty, conflict, problem, sore point, and so on. “Please vote on the coffee issue” is over the top when the matter at hand is a request for input on preferences for the lunch room!

SOLUTION IF YOU’RE NOT SURE: Will “matter” or “subject” or “topic” do the job? If so, avoid the “issue”!

Principal vs. Principle: “pal” is a person, a key item, or a loan amount; “ple” is a concept

WRONG: The principle reason is cost. The School Principle will speak at noon. The loan principle is $x.
CORRECT: The principal reason is cost. The School Principal will speak at noon. The loan principal is $x.

Moral or ethical principles guide our beliefs and decisions. “The principal reason we support the School Principal’s proposal is that we agree with the underlying principle of democratic process.”

SOLUTION IF YOU’RE NOT SURE: The main guideline in our decision to support the School’s Management is …

They sound the same, but …

Horde: large group of people, animals Hoard: stash, collect; a collection
Phase: stage Faze: discourage, stop
Defuse: calm down Diffuse: spread out, distribute
Loath: I am loath (hesitant) to reduce the price Loathe: We just loathe (detest) those garish colors
Lose: be without Loose: not tight, set free

Whose or who’s ? Answer: Who Is!

WRONG: -Who’s are these shoes? Employees who’s pension plans are locked in … Whose responsible?
CORRECT: Whose are these shoes? Employees whose pension plans are locked in … Who’s

[who is] responsible?

TRICK: Speak it out! “Employees who is benefits” clearly is wrong and so points to “employees whose benefits”.

Dependant vs. Dependent: You may safely lose the ant – it’s only a “vari-ant”.

WRONG: He has two dependants. Dependant on the court judgment, …
CORRECT: He has two dependents. Depending on the court judgment, …

SOLUTION IF YOU’RE NOT SURE: Two children depend on him. It will depend on the court judgment whether …