Saturday, July 23, 2016

20 misused English words that make smart people look silly — Quartz

20 misused English words that make smart people look silly — Quartz

This post originally appeared at LinkedIn. Follow the author here.

We're all tempted to use words that we're not too familiar with. If this were the only problem, I wouldn't have much to write about. That's because we're cautious with words we're unsure of and, thus, they don't create much of an issue for us. It's the words that we think we're using correctly that wreak the most havoc. We throw them around in meetings, e-mails and important documents (such as resumes and client reports), and they land, like fingernails across a chalkboard, on everyone who has to hear or read them. We're all guilty of this from time to time, myself included.

When I write, I hire an editor who is an expert in grammar to review my articles before I post them online. It's bad enough to have a roomful of people witness your blunder—it's something else entirely to stumble in front of 100,000! The point is, we can all benefit from opportunities to sharpen the saw and minimize our mistakes. Often, it's the words we perceive as being more correct or sophisticated that don't really mean what we think they do. There are 20 such words that have a tendency to make even really smart people stumble.

Have a look to see which of these commonly confused words throw you off.

Accept vs. Except

These two words sound similar but have very different meanings. Accept means to receive something willingly: "His mom accepted his explanation" or "She accepted the gift graciously." Except signifies exclusion: "I can attend every meeting except the one next week." To help you remember, note that both except and exclusion begin with ex.

Affect vs. Effect

To make these words even more confusing than they already are, both can be used as either a noun or a verb. Let's start with the verbs. Affect means to influence something or someone; effect means to accomplish something. "Your job was affected by the organizational restructuring" but "These changes will be effected on Monday." As a noun, an effect is the result of something: "The sunny weather had a huge effect on sales." It's almost always the right choice because the noun affect refers to an emotional state and is rarely used outside of psychological circles: "The patient's affect was flat."

Lie vs. Lay

We're all pretty clear on the lie that means an untruth. It's the other usage that trips us up. Lie also means to recline: "Why don't you lie down and rest?" Lay requires an object: "Lay the book on the table." Lie is something you can do by yourself, but you need an object to lay. It's more confusing in the past tense. The past tense of lie is—you guessed it—lay: "I lay down for an hour last night." And the past tense of lay is laid: "I laid the book on the table."

Bring vs. Take

Bring and take both describe transporting something or someone from one place to another, but the correct usage depends on the speaker's point of view. Somebody brings something to you, but you take it to somewhere else: "Bring me the mail, then take your shoes to your room." Just remember, if the movement is toward you, use bring; if the movement is away from you, use take.

Ironic vs. Coincidental

A lot of people get this wrong. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that's not ironic—it's coincidental (and bad luck). Ironic has several meanings, all of which include some type of reversal of what was expected. Verbal irony is when a person says one thing but clearly means another. Situational irony is when a result is the opposite of what was expected. O. Henry was a master of situational irony. In his famous short story The Gift of the Magi, Jim sells his watch to buy combs for his wife's hair, and she sells her hair to buy a chain for Jim's watch. Each character sold something precious to buy a gift for the other, but those gifts were intended for what the other person sold. That is true irony. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that's coincidental. If you drive up to the mountains to ski, and there was more snow back at your house, that's ironic.

Imply vs. Infer

To imply means to suggest something without saying it outright. To infer means to draw a conclusion from what someone else implies. As a general rule, the speaker/writer implies, and the listener/reader infers.

Nauseous vs. Nauseated

Nauseous has been misused so often that the incorrect usage is accepted in some circles. Still, it's important to note the difference. Nauseous means causing nausea; nauseated means experiencing nausea. So, if your circle includes ultra-particular grammar sticklers, never say "I'm nauseous" unless you want them to be snickering behind your back.

Comprise vs. Compose

These are two of the most commonly misused words in the English language.Comprise means to include; compose means to make up. It all comes down to parts versus the whole. When you use comprise, you put the whole first: "A soccer game comprises (includes) two halves." When you use compose, you put the pieces first: "Fifty states compose (make up) the United States of America."

Farther vs. Further

Farther refers to physical distance, while further describes the degree or extent of an action or situation. "I can't run any farther," but "I have nothing further to say." If you can substitute "more" or "additional," use further.

Fewer vs. Less

Use fewer when you're referring to separate items that can be counted; use less when referring to a whole: "You have fewer dollars, but less money."

Bringing it all together

English grammar can be tricky, and, a lot of times, the words that sound right are actually wrong. With words such as those listed above, you just have to memorize the rules so that when you are about to use them, you'll catch yourself in the act and know for certain that you've written or said the right one.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

csen, Why the 21st Century May Be More of An "American...

csen, Why the 21st Century May Be More of An "American...

Some random thoughts on a summer Friday…

What's the rationale behind all of this talk of American declinism? Let's look at some of the key drivers of the 21st century:

Communications Technology: American-based companies dominate the internet, especially the mobile internet. Smartphones run on Google or Apple technology. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn dominate social and professional networking. Whatsapp and Waze are now owned by American companies. Amazon may end up being the retailer of the globe.

Transportation and Energy: Solar's gaining a lot of momentum. Elon Musk is almost single-handedly dragging the US into a post-hydrocarbon world. And if that turns out to be a pipe dream, we've got plenty of oil and natural gas in the Dakotas and Texas. Still plenty of coal too, as out of favor as that's become. If ride-sharing really is a thing, we've got Uber and Lyft. Gen-X leaders are currently making our cities more walkable for rising Millennials who favor such things.

Diversity and Immigration: The US remains the country that the world wants to move to. The US's megacities are as diverse and tolerant as they come, and the urban south is becoming a new immigrant hub with megacities becoming too pricey. Atlanta looks to become the South's answer to Los Angeles. Legal same sex marriage in all 50 states may be less than 5-10 years away if SCOTUS rules that way.

Education: Lots of issues here at all levels, but increasingly cities are giving charter schools and other reform approaches more consideration. Elites from the developing world want to send their kids to get educated here in larger numbers. Whether they stay or not, they'll form university-based diasporas throughout the world, creating benefits for Americans. If and when online education takes off, hard to think Silicon Valley and/or American universities won't play a prominent role.

A Dynamic Economy: For all the talk about tax rates and regulations in the US, when it comes to corporate culture the US is blessed with dynamic and transparent shareholder-friendly companies. It's a phenomenal place in which to be an investor. And with demographic trends turning, should be a better and better place to be a worker. Whether we're going through a credit boom or credit bust, labor abundance or labor shortage, energy boom or technology boom, the US economy always manages to figure it out.

Demographics: Between birthrates and immigration, where else in the developed world is it better? And the US continues to be blessed with abundant land on which to build relative to its economic peers.

Institutional Strength: We're going through a rough patch, but relative to Europe, China, and Russia, it's hard to argue the US isn't #1 by a mile. Japan is kind of a special case, but it seems willing to accept its demographic demise in order to maintain ethnic homogeneity and harmony.

Military Strength: The US remains blessed to have two enormous oceans to its east and west, a peaceful neighbor to the north and increasingly a cultural and economic sibling to its south. Technology should continue to gain preeminence relative to soldier labor, and if drone and cyber-warfare are the future who else would you want to bet on?

The period from the mid 1940's to mid 1960's are thought to be the golden age for American hegemony, but a careful read of that time showed just how much the country struggled with it. "The olds" at the time, and much of the heartland, wanted no part of wearing the crown, preferring its "mind our own business" attitude that prevailed until World War I. The US made a series of foreign policy and political gaffes as it adjusted to its new role.

Much of the "American declinist" talk is about the end of the American empire, but the American empire is at most 70 years old. That'd make it one of the shortest reigns in history. Surely one day the American empire will end, but would a duration of 200, 300, or 400 years be out of line with the Roman or British empires, to which the American empire is compared?

While I expect the world as a whole to be more prosperous in my golden years than it currently is, I wouldn't be surprised at all if US power is even greater in the 2030's and 2040's than it was in my parents' childhood.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

11 TED Talks that will teach you how be happier

11 TED Talks that will teach you how be happier

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