6 Everyday Words You Don’t Want To Mess Up

Guy looking confused over wordsMyriad and kudos are of Greek origin, which could be why we sometimes have a hard time knowing exactly how to use them. Usage disagreement emerges from even respected sources: Is it myriad or a myriad of?

1. myriad: many, a countless or infinite number; also, both numerous and diverse

In the following examples, either myriad or a myriad of would be acceptable, but I — as do many writers and editors — prefer simply myriad. Good writing expresses a thought in the fewest possible words.

She provides tech support for a network with myriad computers.
She provides tech support for a network with a myriad of computers.

The sky glows with myriad stars.
The sky glows with a myriad of stars.

He read myriad articles on nutrition before he started his diet.
He read a myriad of articles on nutrition before he started his diet.

2. kudos: credit or praise for an achievement

The most important thing to remember about kudos, beyond its definition, is that although the s makes kudos appear to be plural, it is singular. It means glory in Greek. You would not say or write: I’m sending you a kudo (a glory) for the great job you did on the essay.

Bank staff earned kudos for their high customer service rating.
Kudos to Melanie for winning the tennis championship.
She sent kudos when I was named manager of the year.

Flout and flaunt, words that are similar in spelling and that sound similar, also are easy to confuse:

3. flout: to openly disregard (as a rule, law or accepted practice)

Despite continued warnings, students continue to flout the law by riding Mopeds on the sidewalk.
The hurried shopper flouted the sign and parked in a spot marked for people with disabilities.
Are you going to flout tradition and skip the swearing-in ceremony?

4. flaunt: to display or make a great show of

The newly rich often flaunt their wealth with big homes and expensive cars.
She flaunts the humungous diamond in her engagement ring at every opportunity.
He would never flaunt his royal family tree.

Quash and squash are equally easy to confuse:

5. quash: to reject, void, suppress, stop or extinguish, especially by judicial action

Attorneys for the defense are trying to quash the selection of jurors who live in their client’s neighborhood.
Troops quashed the rebellion before it escalated.
Please help me quash rumors about my winning the lottery.

6. squash: to press or crush something until it becomes flat

Let’s go squash grapes at the annual winery festival.
I squashed the aluminum can and threw it into the recycling bin.
He squashed every cucumber beetle he could find.

Although I sometimes see squash used when referring to rebellions, there is a nuance of difference. Troops likely can stop or suppress a rebellion without actually flattening those who participate in it.

Careful writers and ruthless editors don’t consider flout and flaunt or quash and squash interchangeable. And they know the fine points of myriad and kudos.

Use care with tricky words. Paying attention to detail in our world of quick communication and shortcuts will set you apart.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)