As court reporters, we spend the majority of our time diligently capturing the words of witnesses and counsel during depositions. Over the years, we’ve identified a list of commonly misused words that seem to have worked their way into many people’s vocabulary. Since witnesses represent a large cross-section of the population coming from a wide range of backgrounds, we figured this list might be helpful for just about everyone.
8 Sets of Commonly Misused Words In the English Language
1. Accept vs. Except
Accept means to receive or believe.
- He can accept the terms of this agreement.
Except means to leave out.
- He agrees with everything except the last clause.
2. Adverse vs. Averse
Adverse refers to harmful or unfavorable circumstances.
- The medication is known to cause some adverse reactions.
Averse means dislike or opposition.
- He chose a conservative investment portfolio because he is averse to financial risk.
3. Elicit vs. Illicit
Elicit means to extract or obtain by drawing out.
- It takes some skill and experience to elicit relevant facts from your witness.
Illicit describes activities that are illegal or unlawful.
- The plaintiff disclosed his concern for his employee’s illicit use of narcotics during the workday.
4. Farther vs. Further
Farther describes a real physical distance.
- His firm is farther away from the courthouse.
Further refers to a figurative distance.
- That could not be further from the truth.
5. Insure vs. Ensure vs. Assure
Insure pertains to insurance.
- You must insure your automobile because it’s the law.
Ensure means to confirm or make sure of something.
- We wanted to ensure that she understood the repercussions.
Assure refers to a promise or having confidence in something.
- We assure your satisfaction, or we’ll make it right.
6. Precede vs. Proceed
Precede means to come prior to something.
- The welcome remarks by the president were intended to precede the keynote address.
Proceed means to start or continue.
- Now that you’ve signed in, you may proceed to the courtroom.
7. Principle vs. Principal
Principle describes a socially accepted action or norm, rule.
- He declined their offer as a matter of principle.
Principal refers to main concern or highest station.
- Our principal complaint is your tardiness.
- She is the principal of the school.
8. Than vs. Then
Than is used as a means of comparison
- Does your car get better gas mileage than mine?
Then is used to describe a point in time.
- We went to the deposition then back to the office.
Of course, reporters must write what is said, not what should have been said. So if your witness says, for example, “I need to buy some assurance for my vehicle,” we would type exactly that in the transcript and put in a parenthetical of (sic), which is used after a word or phrase that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is typed exactly as it was said and is not an error on the part of the reporter. We are “keepers of the record” not editors of the record. So, no matter what you (or your witness) may say during a deposition, you can rest assured that your court reporter will capture verbatim what was said, whether it’s grammatically correct or not!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like, “Don’t Let Bad Questions Tarnish Your Record”