Most Misused Words And Phrases: Part 1

This article is the first of two parts that provide lists of English words and phrases that should either not be used or often should not be used (in articles at least), with corresponding corrections or alternatives.

After editing thousands of articles for the past few years I have developed a list of words and phrases that I often modify. The list is a result of many actual uses of the words and phrases in articles I have edited. Some of them I always modify (such as "by the help of") and for some of them, whether I change them highly depends upon the meaning. Most of the words and phrases in this article (Part 1) I change quite often in articles. I have another article (Part 2) with more words and phrases. I wish I had more examples but instead of waiting to find examples I will submit this now and update it later.

In the following table, nine of the cells in the "To" column have a bar ("|"). The bar character means "or" in C# and that is what it means here too. In other words "do | use" means "do" or "use". In the comments, "To be done" means I will provide an explanation in the future.

From ToComments
above preceding | the precedingSee below.
am going towill See below.
below following | the followingSee "above and below" below.
between among See below.
by the help ofusing theAlways.
can we toUsually, but probably not in a question.
differentvarious | multipleSee below.
face encounter | experienceSee below.
get beTo be done.
getting being To be done.
has tomust Nearly always.
have toneed to | must Nearly always.
how we canhow toNearly always.
know learn | understandTo be done.
look onlook atNearly always; I think I always have so far.
lots ofmany See below.
Means In other wordsSee below.
mentionspecify See below.
no.number See below.
particularspecific See below.
perform do | useSee below.
stepsprocedureSee below.
take use | getTo be done.
take a lookhave a lookAlways.
through using See below.
which that See below.
with [the] help of using | withAlways.
you willyou See below.

Extended Comments

The following provides further explanation of many of the words and phrases.

above and below

I often see "above" and "below" used in ways that certainly seem wrong to me however it often is also done by people whose native language (I assume) is English. I am sorry that I do not know enough about grammar to provide a technical explanation, but probably you neither want a technical explanation nor would understand it. So the following table shows samples of what is not good and alternatives that are good.

Not goodGood
Above is the sample. The sample is shown above.
Or
The preceding is the sample.
Below is the sample.The sample is shown below.
Or
The following is the sample.

am going to

The word "will" is simpler than "am going to", sounds better and nearly always means the same thing.

between

It is difficult for me to be precise about all the relevant rules, but note that generally "between" is appropriate for two things. If there are more than two things then it is probably appropriate to say "among". There are many exceptions however.

different

The word "different" is often used in a manner that is inappropriate similar to how "between" is inappropriate (when it is). It is often better to say "various" when there are more than two. Sometimes "multiple" is better.

face

In articles "face" is seldom a noun referring to a portion of a body. The word "face" is often used to mean "encounter" or "experience" and when it is, it is better to not use "face".

lots of

There are often situations when there seems to be no better way to say "lots of" but also there are often great alternatives. So "lots of" should be avoided when possible but it is often not practical to do so.

means

The word "means" seems to sometimes be used to mean the same as what "in other words" means and when it is, it is better to use "in other words".

mention

The word "mention" (or "mentioned") is often used to mean the same as "specify" (or "specified"). If "specify" can be used to say the same thing then it will significantly improve the impression of the article. Sometimes the word "mention" means other things, such as "say" (or "said") and then it would be better to use the alternative.

no.

Oh please, when you mean "number" do not use "no.", it can make the intended meaning confusing. And please, please do not say "no" (without the period). The only exception is when space is truly limited (as in a heading of a table column) and the meaning is obvious. Saying "no." for "number" is like saying "u" for "you".

particular

The word "particular" is often used to mean the same as what "specific" means. If "specific" can be used to mean the same thing then it will significantly improve the impression of the article.

perform

It is better to say "do" or "use" instead of "perform" when they mean the same thing. The word "perform" is often the correct word but I see it used more often than it should be.

steps

Say "procedure" instead of "steps" when possible. Note that "steps" is plural and "procedure" is singular so for example "steps are" should be changed to "procedure is". Sometimes it is good to say "steps" but I see it used very, very much and it is better to use alternatives when possible.

through

The word "through" is often used to mean "using" and when "using" is meant then it is better to use "using".

which

The word "which" is often used to mean "that" and when the word "which" is used that way, it also makes a bad impression. Therefore try to learn when "that" is appropriate for use instead of "which".

you will

The word "will" seems to be used in places where it is unnecessary. I cannot explain clearly what is appropriate and what is not, but please try to note the difference.

 
Updates
 
Date Description
May 21, 2015"steps" was in the Extended Comments but not in the table.