February 12, 2016

Who Else Wants a Spanking for Imbecilic Word Usage?

English teacher and paddle

Here’s a word problem pop quiz: Let’s say you’ve heard a certain fancy-sounding word every so often and even read it in print a couple of times — but…still don’t have a clear understanding of how to properly use it yourself. Should you insert this word into one of your blog posts anyway?

[Visualize this – me, twirling my oaken paddle menacingly while pacing the wood floor in my 6-inch stilettos]

If you answered yes, you deserve a spanking for imbecilic word usage just like this “copywriter slash editor” who wrote the following:

“In lieu of a recent situation in our neighborhood…I decided to have the talk again with my kids.”

The word “lieu” makes absolutely no sense here. I can only assume the blogger used the word thinking it meant “because of” or “due to”.

Why, oh why, attempt to use a word when you aren’t absolutely sure of its proper usage and meaning?

The word, lieu, comes from the Old French words liu and lieu and from the Latin word, locus. Its first known use occurred somewhere during the 14th century. In modern English we use the idiomatic phrase, in lieu of, to mean instead of – NOT because of or due to.

Here’s an example of proper usage of the word:

“In lieu of going to Galveston beach, we’ve decided to hang out by the kiddie pool in the back yard.”

Lecture (or rant) over. And in lieu of turning your cute tush 50 shades of red with my paddle, I’m giving you some additional quick and dirty tips on using Latin abbreviations. Straighten up in your seat and pay attention.

  • etc. – abbreviation for the Latin phrase et cetera, meaning “and so forth”. Don’t misspell it by transposing the t and the c as so many careless others do. Whether you use the entire phrase or the abbreviation, use a comma before it when it appears at the end of a list. Usage: Go to the store and get vodka, rum, milk, etc., for the party.
  • et al. – abbreviation for the Latin et alia, meaning “and others”. Use this when citing a multi-author source and you leave out all but the main author. Do not put a period after the et, only after al. Do not use a comma before this abbreviation like you do with etc.
  • i.e. – abbreviation for id est, meaning “that is”. Add a period after both letters. People often leave out the periods and that’s just plain wrong. Use this when making clarifications, not when making examples.
  • e.g. – abbreviation for exempli gratia, meaning “for example”. Again, make certain to use periods after each letter of this abbreviation. Use this when presenting examples of something.

Be word smart and avoid the spanking. That’s all for now, class dismissed!

Share the grammar and word usage fails you’ve seen around the Web or around town with us….we’ll get our rulers, red pens, and paddles ready and add lots of heavy sighing.


About Samantha Gluck

Not only am I the chief editor of this multi-author online magazine, I'm a content creator and social media marketing strategist with a background in journalism, finance, & healthcare. I began my content marketing agency, All Media Freelance, LLC, in 2010 and lead a well-rounded, talented team of multi-channel content strategists and niche writers. I've developed and managed print and digital content projects for health care, fitness, financial services, mental health, non-profit, and automotive publishers, as well as for biotechnology brands.


  1. Great information as always Samantha. Now I’ll have to go back over my writing and make sure that I’m not making any of these mistakes.

    • Ha! Thanks so much, Laura. Don’t get me wrong, I make my fair share of mistakes and have suffered my deserved spankings.

      That said, I am very careful about using words properly so that their true meaning is aligned with what I’m actually trying to say.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Great article, Samantha.

    Those examples are a few that I constantly have to watch out for in my writing.

    May I please be forced to eat jalapeños instead of a spanking?
    Steve recently posted..Content Marketing – the New SEO StrategyMy Profile

    • Thank you for your kind words, Steve. Yes, the Latin abbreviations are examples of those that I find the need to check when using them, especially the less common ones.

      Wonderful to see you here and thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      Oh, and yes, you may have jalepenos in lieu of a spanking. ;-)

  3. Samantha, I love your creativity with this post and of course the image too :) Thanks for sharing some good examples of what should be used vs what is used at times with certain words. I, like Laura, will have to re-check some of my own words too. I hope you have a great rest of the weekend there Samantha.
    Lisa recently posted..Can Tweeting Make You Happy When You Are Feeling Down?My Profile

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Lisa. We all make mistakes in our writing and I’m certainly no exception. As with anything, I think it’s important to be open to improvement and learning all the time.

      I found a couple of errors in old posts the other day and went in to correct them. Oops!

  4. I’m not really fully understand English language, but ya, sometimes I found the “word” that weird for me and don;r know whether this is english or not… :)
    myrujukan recently posted..Sony NEX-5R Digital Camera ReviewMy Profile

  5. Hi Samantha,

    I love watching characters like Ricky of Trailer Park Boys using words he doesn’t understand incorrectly ‑ and it’s always good for a laugh ‑ but in professional writing it’s just sad. I’m happy to say that “In lieu of” is a phrase I’ve been using correctly, so I have not qualified for a spanking.

    - Cole
    Cole Wiebe recently posted..Which Web Design Approach is the Most Effective?My Profile

  6. Well I’m not a native english speaker so I must say I will make such mistakes but your post is really informative.


    • Hi Vicky,

      Understandably, non-native speakers will still make mistakes and that’s perfectly okay. What isn’t ok is a born and bred American who is a self-proclaimed “writer” and “editor”, yet makes mistakes like this continually. Who would want to hire someone like that? I know lots of other native speakers who make mistakes too and that’s ok as well because they aren’t saying that they are professional writers and editors. See the difference?

      Thanks for stopping by!

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