10 Top Tips for Spelling and Phrasing for Popularly Misused American Phrases

Professional and formal writing requires a level of English beyond the way in which we normally speak. This often creates a problem for non-English speakers, those with a lower education level, and individuals used to writing casual correspondences utilizing phrases and spelling based on the way the typical American speaks. Below are a list of common mistakes and how to fix them before they thwart professional or college ambitions. 

1) Suppose to: This is commonly misspelled due to the way in which we speak. We often assume things are spelled exactly as they are said. The proper spelling for the phrase “suppose to” is “supposed to.”

Example: I was supposed to go to work today, but I fell ill and called in sick.

2) Use to: This is another strange spelling due to oral and written differences in the way it sounds. “use to” should be spelled “used to.”

Example: I used to work for a biomedical corporation, but now I work for the Environmental Protection Agency.

3) Could care less: Somehow this phrase changed over time, and most people now say “I could care less what you do with your life!” As a phrase meaning they don’t care. However, in saying this, what you’re actually saying is that there you have the capacity to actually care less about a particular situation. The actual phrase is “couldn’t care less,” meaning there is no lower tier, the amount that you do not care is at its lowest point.

Example: I couldn’t care less about your relationship problems!

4) Would of: “Would of” also comes from the manner of speech in which we tend to talk. Proper spelling and phrasing is “would have.”

Example: I would have liked to see that movie while it was in the theatre, instead of watching it on my small screen T.V. at home.

5) OK, O.K., and Okay: According to Hacker (2007), the use of any of these is correct when casually writing, however, all of them should be avoided whenever possible when writing a formal piece. Instead of using any of these in writing, choose another word like good, acceptable, satisfactory, or well. A thesaurus can help with new word choices, if needed.

Example: His proposal was acceptable, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

6) Kind of: This should never be used in any sort of professional or formal writing piece. Kind of or kinda are both colloquial forms of speech. Instead of using kind of or kinda, use another phrase meaning the same thing such as fairly, to some extent, or moderately.

Example: I was moderately amused by the movie.

7) Hisself: This might be used in speech, but is often written by individuals unsure of which pronoun to use. The correct pronoun is “himself.”

Example: Jason bought a new jacket for himself while shopping for a birthday gift for his father.

8) In regards to: This is popularly used in both writing and speech, however, the correct phrasing is “in regard to.”

Example: I am writing in regard to your post on Ebook writers.

9) Oriental: This one seems slightly odd to have to explain, but it was once very commonplace, and some people tend to still use it. Oriental used to be used as a term for Asian people, it is now out-dated and often considered offensive. It is generally best to be specific about the country of origin instead of using Asian, but Asian is widely accepted in the United States.

Example: Asian students outnumber Australian at my University.

10) Irregardless: This word has gained a lot of popularity of late, it seems people have completely dropped the actual phrase and have been using this double negative. In a sense, it has become American slang. The proper word for formal and professional interactions and writing is “regardless.”

Example: Regardless of your opinion, I have decided to purchase the house.


Brians, P. (2011). Common Errors in English Usage.

Family Education (2011). Typical Errors on the SAT Proofreading Section.

George Mason University (N.d). Avoiding Common Grammar Mistakes. Department of English.

Hacker, D. (2007). A Writer’s Reference, 6th Ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, New York.