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Grammar

11 Non-Words That Are Said Too Often

For some grammar enthusiasts, few things are more annoying than non-words. People use them as if they’re completely valid, even though they aren’t.

We encounter plenty of “non-words” every day. The problem is too many people seem to be unaware that they aren’t actually words.

Here are 11 words that aren’t really words (though one of them seems to be debatable).

1. Alot

This non-word is the result of trying to cram two small words into one small word. Don’t do it. Use “a lot” instead. 

2. Alright

Same as above. “Alright” isn’t “all right.” I’m guilty of this one from time to time myself, but I’m working on it.

3. Asterick

The “star” symbol, *, is an asterisk. It ends with a hard -isk sound.

4. Complected

Different reference books disagree over this one, so if you use the word, you should be prepared for a possible fight with an editor. Some sources claim that an author who uses a phrase like “dark-complected,” really means to say “dark-complexioned.”

5. Conversate

I see this non-word used incorrectly as a verb more and more often. People who are about to have a conversation are said to be ready to “conversate.” The correct verb is converse.

6. Excetera

There’s no X sound. It’s et cetera.

7. Expecially/Ecspecially

Same as above. There’s no X sound in that first syllable. There’s also no K sound there, either. It’s especially.

8. Irregardless

This one always angers my mom. The dictionary defines this word as “non-standard,” which is a nice way of telling you that it isn’t a word. Grammarly immediately flags this one: The word anyone who means to use when they say irregardless is regardless. Think of it this way: if regardless means without concern, irregardless would mean “without a lack of concern.” This common error occurs when the writer, no doubt thinking subconsciously of the word “irrespective,” adds the prefix to the wrong word.

9. Nother

This unusual word generally appears in the form “a whole nother.” It’s actually an improper severing of another. Instead of “a whole nother,” one should say either, “another” or “a whole other.”

10. Orientate

The extra syllable may create a word that sounds formal, but to someone familiar with the proper word, “orient,” it merely sounds foolish. This extra “-ate” error is the same as the one that creates the non-word “conversate.”

11. Supposably

It’s supposedly. There’s no B anywhere in the word.


Which of these are at the top of your pet peeve list?

2 Comments

  1. On the “asterick” example, I find that more people write/say “asterix” as if the word had something to do with Franco-Belgian comics.

    1. True. It’s a word that most people rarely see written out, so they spell it based on how they say it, even though many routinely mispronounce it.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.