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Misused Words

Technical writing may contain words used incorrectly. This makes the author appear ignorant and detracts from the effectiveness of the writing.

If you find the words or phrases from the left-hand column in your text, consider the alternatives in the right-hand column.

Avoid this Consider this
decimate Decimate means to reduce by (only) 10%. If the intent is to mean "slaughtered" or "wiped out," then say so although those expressions are not particularly precise.
exponential Exponential has a very specific meaning in a mathematical sense. In technical writing, using it in any other sense is probably not a good idea.
fulsome Fulsome means lavish, almost to the point of being too much as in "His fulsome comments at my retirement dinner were embarrassing." In many cases, "full" or "complete" might be better choices.
hone in Hone means to sharpen, as in "to hone a knife." In many cases, "home in" or "zero in" would be closer to the intent.
literally Literally means "exactly," not in a figurative way of speaking. Think carefully before using this in technical writing.

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