Ulla de Stricker, de Stricker Associates

Following on her piece in the March 2014 issue, Ulla de Stricker offers additional examples of common but easily avoidable errors in English language usage

Repeat Twice. Hm? Do it twice or three times?

Technically, ‘repeat twice’ means something gets repeated once, then one more time, for a total of 3 events.

May I plead for pleaded?

WRONG: The defendant pled guilty. At the meeting yesterday, John pled ignorance of the new regulations.
CORRECT: The defendant pleaded guilty. At the meeting yesterday, John pleaded ignorance.

It’s possible we mentally “hear” the past tense of bleed (bled) when we use “pled”. Trust me, the past tense of “plead” is “pleaded”.

Is it all over the map, or have payments been made?

WRONG: The funds have been dispersed. The family has members disbursed all over the world.
CORRECT: The funds have been disbursed. The family has members dispersed …

Trick: “Disburse” means “remove from the place where the money is” (from French bourse meaning pouch or purse). If the idea is “spread far and wide”, then use “disperse”. Of course, disbursements can be dispersed to faraway places!

Here’s an agonizing one:

WRONG: It was tortuous standing in line for so long. That logic is just too torturous for words!
CORRECT: It was torturous standing in line for so long. That logic is just too tortuous for words!

“Tortuous” means twisted and “torturous” means painful. Perhaps you want to just use those words instead!

Let them loose—or lose them entirely?

WRONG: At this rate, we’ll soon loose all the money we allocated for playing at the casino. Losely speaking, I’d say there were 15 people in the store. Don’t be a sore looser! Loseing one’s wallet is a nightmare.
CORRECT: We’ll lose. Loosely speaking. Don’t be a sore loser! Losing one’s wallet is a nightmare.

Trick: Let the double “oo” remind you of the “loose change” jangling around freely in your pocket. Hence “let them loose” means “set them free”. Thus, “because he failed to close the gate, he loosed ten dogs on the neighborhood”.

We all wait with some kind of breath, but it’s not baited!

WRONG: I await your reply with baited breath. The fever has abaited.
CORRECT: I await your reply with bated breath. The fever has abated.

Baiting is what sports fishers do when they put a worm on a hook. Abatement is what happens when something decreases, so “bating” means reducing or holding back.