Make Less Mistakes


This post is the seventh in a series called “500 Words To Save The World.” Each day I will use just 500 words to address a problem that has been bugging you or me. If you want to get in on the conversation, tell me the problem you’d like discussed in the comments section of this post, or email me directly at You may start counting words… now!


There is nothing that makes you look less intelligent than a regular misuse of language. I am a musician of language; English is my instrument. Like music, language is alive, fluid, and evolves over time. However, just like music, language has rules, and if you don’t follow them, you will hurt people’s ears.

In general most people aren’t fools, but when said people say stupid things, what are the rest of us to think? Here are four of the language misdemeanors that make a little vein on my temple throb. If you know someone who needs help (and you do), please share this. I thank you in advance.

The title of this piece should have made you cringe, but to many it looks just fine; it is not.

Lesson One – Speedy Delivery

This one is simple; if the subject is general, use the word less, but if specific units are involved use fewer.

  • Tom has less money than Sharon.
  • Tom has fewer dollars Sharon.

So, clearly the title of this piece should be “Make Fewer Mistakes.” The next time a TV or radio ad proclaims that you can have your new furniture delivered in three days or less, it is okay to scream out loud.

Lesson Two – Tax Time

We are seven weeks away from the dreaded April 15th, but the misuse of two tax words is already all around us.

  • A Tax Return, is the form you fill out and send to the IRS or state tax authority.
  • A Tax Refund is the money you receive when your return shows a negative balance.

Any advertiser or company that suggests you come spend your Tax Return with them deserves fewer of your dollars, not more.

Lesson Three – Geopolitical Skin Care

When an individual or group runs a government for a period of time it is called a Regime. The word is typically used in countries where regime change is a frequent and sudden event.

A routine that involves several steps is called a regimen. So, if you have six skin-care products you apply in a specific order every night, you have a well-defined regimen.

In 1989 when regime change came to Panama, Manuel Noriega saw the end of his regime, giving him more time to spend on his skin-care regimen.

Lesson Four – Damn Groundhog

Three weeks ago, Punxsutawney Phil proclaimed that there would be six more weeks of winter; six more weeks of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice.

When it finally ends mid-March, the snow will begin to melt, however things will not unthaw. Why you ask? Because unthaw is not a word.

The prefix “un,” when slapped on the front of a word, inverts the meaning of the word to which it attached. So, if unthaw were a word (which it is not) it would actually mean something not thawing. We have a word for that, freezing.


We use language every day, so why not use it properly? Weird Al Yankovic agrees, click watch, listen and learn.

Copyright © 2015 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.(Make Less Mistakes)

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2 thoughts on “Make Less Mistakes

  • Seein’ how you gettin’ all specific-y . . . I take some minor issue with your definition of regime. “When an individual or group runs a government for a period of time it is called a Regime.” Regime actually refers to the rules and structure that power-holders within government are supposed to play by and enforce.

    You are correct in that it is most commonly associated with countries where changes in government happen frequently, but herein lies the reason this word is so commonly misused: regime change occurs most often in unstable countries where dictators hold and abuse power. When they are killed or a coup d’état takes place, all the rules change, as dictators make up the rules as they go along.

    A few examples of regime:

    Old Regime France vs. the First Republic = Regime change. The aristocracy loses privileges, the masses are given greater agency within government due to a new “constitution”.

    End of communism = Regime change. Free market economics and laws are instituted.

    Election of David Cameron: Regime stays the same. Transfer of power by democratic means. Cameron plays by the same rules as Blair.

    Abdullah I of Jordan dies and his son takes over: Regime stays the same. Transfer of power by non-democratic means. Rules stay the same for both kings.

    The United States defeats Japan, ends the reign of the emperor and imposes parliamentary democracy = Regime change . . . big time.

    “American” rebels defeat the British and establish the United States of America: Regime change? An interesting question, as the founding fathers adopted almost all of English common law and called their king the president. However, the democratic election of the president was a big change (although voter participation was limited to white, mostly land owning males). I am going regime change here . . .

    A bicameral parliamentary system is a regime.
    A bicameral presidential system is a regime.
    And yes, a repressive, non-democratic dictatorship is a regime.

    When all of my lefty brethren here on the left coast drove around with bumper stickers demanding “Regime Change in the USA” in the early 2000’s, their sentiment may have been correct but their semantics were off.

    Keep up the good work cuz!

    I would like to extend thanks in providing me with an opportunity to make use of my double major in History and Political Science for the first time since graduating college. I will now order paint.

    • Rye,

      I would have said more, but I chose to include this topic in my series limited to 500 words. Unrestricted, this topic would likely have resulted in bleeding from the ears and Emily cashing in on a hefty life insurance. I wonder how many will get my Noriega skin care joke?

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