By Published On: February 2, 2016

OK, first of all, what is an idiom (other than being one letter from an idiot)? Here’s the official definition:

an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one’s head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, as the table round for the round table, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics.

Idioms are bandied about frequently in both written and verbal communication, and like many classic rock lyrics, often get butchered in translation. They can be useful tools to add spice and nuance to content, but can backfire and injure credibility when used incorrectly.

Here are five commonly abused idioms followed in parentheses by the correct usage. For a closer look at these and more, visit

Cut your nose off despite your face. (Cut off your nose to spite your face.)
I could care less. (I couldn’t care less.)
Risk adverse. (Risk averse.)
Lay of the land. (Lie of the land.)
A shoe-in. (A shoo-in.)

The differences are subtle, but important. With vocabulary and grammar the devil is in the details (idiom) and people are often judged by their accuracy in usage. Strive to be right as rain (idiom) to avoid being accused of not playing with a full deck (idiom).

If you’ve messed up in the past don’t cry over spilt milk (idiom). Just watch your p’s and q’s (idiom) and always look to improve. Anything less just doesn’t cut the mustard (idiom) – oops, that’s cut muster.

About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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