Have you been busted for singing the wrong lyrics to songs? Even though I produce professional writing products every day I mess up sometimes when I’m singing, too. I could have been in Volkswagen’s commercial featuring people singing the wrong words to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” I thought “burning out his fuse up here alone,” was “burning up with fear out here alone.”
For years a good friend of mine insisted Jimi Hendrix sang, “’scuse me while I kiss this guy,” not “’scuse me while I kiss the sky.” A more recent musical mix up is in Jay-Z’s, “Empire State of Mind.” The correct lyrics, “concrete jungle, where dreams are made of,” regularly gets twisted into, “concrete jungle, weird dream tomato.” Go figure.
Most of us occasionally repeat sayings that have been used incorrectly, or misstate those we’ve heard, too. But in business communications it’s important to demonstrate your attention to detail and accuracy so your message will resonate with others possessing those same professional attributes.
I’m surprised by how often I see expressions written incorrectly in professional communications. Taking the time to think through what’s being said, or using a dictionary to find the true meaning of a word, will usually result in getting the phrase right. How well do you think you do with commonly used phrases?
Blast Off To Correct Phrasing
Test your accuracy on three of the most oft misstated expressions by selecting the version you think is right.
1. “I couldn’t care less”/ “I could care less”
2. “Each one worse than the last” / “Each one worse than the next”
3. “Exact revenge” / “Extract revenge”
If you picked the first option each time you nailed it. Here’s why the first options are the right ones.
1. When you say that you could care less it means that you do care to some extent. So if you truly don’t care at all about something, the right way to let people know is to say that you couldn’t care less.
2.. When you say “each one worse than the next,” you’re implying that you know what hasn’t been shown yet. You probably don’t know what comes next every time you use this phrase. So, using “last” makes more sense most times because you know what has already occurred.
3. This one can be solved with a dictionary. To extract is to take something out of another thing. If you extract revenge you’re taking out, or removing, the target person’s revenge instead of exacting it. That would be taking revenge out on him.
Go for broke with any words you’re feeling when you’re singing in the shower. But make sure to think through the logic of anything you plan to communicate for professional purposes.