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How’s That Again?

The presenter takes the mic with a promise to deliver great information. You have no reason to doubt. The bio looks impressive. The introduction engages. He comes across as affable and warm. Then he uses a word that you think you surely misheard. But a moment later, he repeats it. No, you didn’t misunderstand. It’s a jarring mispronunciation of a common word. Suddenly, your mind takes a detour from the message and focuses on the mistake.

Or, you’re in a restaurant or coffee shop and overhear a conversation that makes you sneak a peek? That is, you feel the urge to peek at the person making such an egregious error in pronunciation. You may be surprised that their look doesn’t match their language. It’s odd to witness someone who is well dressed and polished in the way they present themselves mar their otherwise professional image by the mispronunciation of a single word.

Certain words have syllables that people routinely transpose. And once learned incorrectly, these words become dragons to slay. Here’s a starter list. Because even your best friend won’t tell you, check these for yourself to create awareness.

relevant (re-le-vant often mispronounced re-ve-lant)

remuneration (re-mu-ner-a-tion often mispronounced re-nu-mer-a-tion)

nuclear (nu-cle-ar often mispronounced nuke-cu-lar as in particular)

candidate (can-di-date often mispronounced can-ni-date)

escape (es-cape often mispronounced ex-cape)

jewelry (jew-el-ry often mispronounced jew-le-ry)

supposedly (sup-pos-ed-ly often mispronounced sup-pos-a-bly)

asterisk (as-ter-risk often mispronounced as-te-rix, as-ter-icks)

mispronunciation (mis-pro-nun-ci-a-tion often mispronounced mis-pro-noun-ci-a-tion)

mischievous (mis-chie-vous, often mispronounced as mis-chee-ve-ous)

February (Feb-roo-air-y often mispronounced Feb-yoo-air-y)

plenitude (plen-i-tude often mispronounced plent-i-tude)

across (a-cross often mispronounced a-crost)

oriented (o-rient-ed often mispronounced o-rien-tated)

often (of-fen, often mispronounced as of-ten)

library (li-bra-ry, often mispronounced as li-berry)


Little things create big impressions that may become a roadblock in a friend’s path to success.

Feel free to pass this list along to any of your colleagues and family members who may be looking for a job or a promotion and want to make sure they put their best foot forward on every occasion.

8 thoughts on “Oral Communication: Commonly Mispronounced Words”

  1. Thanks for the list, Diana. Can we add “preventive” which is often pronounced as “preventative?” Drives me nuts….and I am afraid of trying to willfully mispronounce them – as then I might start saying it that way!

    1. Kristin,

      Thanks for your comment. Do you mean people write “preventive” and then pronounce it “preventative”? Or write “preventative” and pronounce it “preventive”? I haven’t heard those two confused, but that’s understandable that people would confuse them because they are synonyms.

      Thanks for the contribution—and for your leadership this year at NSA. Much appreciated!


  2. I would like to recommend two words be added to this list, similar and rapport. I have heard people say seem-lar and rap –port.

  3. Personally, I mispronounce helicopter as “hill-a-copter,” and sometimes anniversary as “annivershary,” and sometimes pen as “pin.”

    Orientated has always bothered me as a word, but apparently “the internet” says it’s actually just another form of the word oriented, but less commonly used.

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