Additional Commonly Troublesome Words for Content Creators

content creationSeveral weeks ago, HubSpot came out with a great internet writing style guide, something that every person who writes for a living, or creates marketing content as part of their job, should print out and have handy at the desk. Although this ebook, and the list of commonly troublesome words, are incredibly helpful, they are not exhaustive. There are a few words and guidelines that this style guide missed, and we would like to cover those here. These words and guidelines have come from our own experiences working with clients and in the world of words:

abbreviations/acronyms - In most cases, abbreviations need to be spelled out upon first reference. Every reference after that can use the abbreviation. Here's an example of how this would work:

"There is a conference this weekend for small and medium-sized businesses in the area. However, SMBs who need help with their marketing would benefit the most."

There are some abbreviations and acronyms that are exceptions to this rule, simply because nearly everyone knows what they mean. These would include AAA, AARP, AIDS, HIV, PTA, and VIP.

Adviser – NOT advisor

Afterward – NOT afterwards

a.m., p.m. – always lowercase with periods. Avoid the redundant 10 a.m. this morning. For 12 p.m. and 12 a.m., use noon and midnight respectively to avoid confusion.

Anybody, any body, anyone, any one – One word for an indefinite reference; (ex.) Is anyone attending the open house? Two words when the emphasis is one singling out one element of a group; (ex.) Would any one in the program like to do this project?

Back up (v.), Backup (n.)

Backward – NOT backwards

Blog (n., adj., v.): Preferred to weblog. (lowercase) - It should also be noted that a specific blog entry is called a blog article or blog post. Many say "blog," when they mean "blog posts." A blog is the collection of these entries, or the site where all the entries can be found. If you want someone to write 10 entires, say "10 blog posts" or "blog articles", not "10 blogs".

Broadcast – the past tense is also broadcast, not broadcasted.

Build up (v.), Buildup (n.)

Call up (v.), Call-up (n. and adj.)



Change up (v.), Change-up (n. and adj.)

Cut back (v.), Cutback (n. and adj.)

Cut off (v.), Cutoff (n.)

Data processing (n. and adj.) - Do not hyphenate the adjective.

Dependent (n. and adj.) - NOT dependant



Drop out (v.), Dropout (n.)

Far-flung (adj.)

Far-off (adj.)

Far-ranging (adj.)

Follow up (v.), Follow-up (n. and adj.)

Forward – NOT forwards



Hang, hanged, hung  – one hangs a picture, a criminal, or oneself (that’s gory). Use “hanged” when referring to executions or suicides, “hung” for all other actions

Hold up (v.), Holdup (n. and adj.)

Irregardless – A double negative, thus, incorrect. Regardless is correct.

Lay/lie – Lay is the action word and takes a direct object. Laid is the form for its past tense and its past participle. Its present participle is laying; (ex.) I will lay the cake on the table. I laid the cake on the table. I’m laying the cake on the table.

Lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane and does not take a direct object. Its past tense is lay and its past participle is lain. Its present participle is laying; (ex.) He lies down for the reflexology session. He has lain down for the reflexology session. He is lying down for the reflexology session.

When lie means to make an untrue statement, the forms are lie, lied, and lying.

Lectern, podium, pulpit, rostrum – A speaker stands behind a lectern, on a podium or rostrum, or in a pulpit.


Likable – NOT likeable

Login, logon, logoff (n.)

Log in, log on, log off (v.)


No one

Off of – the “of” is unnecessary; (ex.) The cup fell off the table.

One time/one-time – He called them one time. They were a one-time client.

Pile up (v.), Pileup (n.)


Prove, proved, proving – Use “proven” only as an adjective (ex.) a proven strategy.

Put out (v.), Putout (n.)

Rip off (v.), Rip-off (n.)

Roll call (n.), Roll-call (adj.)

Screen saver – note that it’s two words



Show off (v.), Showoff (n.)

Shut down (v.), Shutdown (n.)

Shut off (v.), Shut-off (n.)

Shut out (v.), Shutout (n.)

Spill, spilled, spilling – NOT spilt for the past tense

Stand out (v.), Standout (n. and adj.)

Take off (v.), Takeoff (n.)

Take out (v.), Takeout (n. and adj.)

Take over (v.), Takeover (n. and adj.)

Their, there, they’re – “Their” is a possessive pronoun; (ex.) The signature pads are in their warehouse. “There” is an adverb indicating direction; (ex.) We are shipping the pads there today. It’s also a pronoun for impersonal constructions; (ex.) There are no pads left in the warehouse. “They’re” is a contraction of “they are”.

Tie in (v.), Tie-in (n.)

Tie, tied, tying

Tie up (v.), Tie-up (n. and adj.)

Trade in (v.), Trade-in (n. and adj.)

Trademarks - We've already written a blog post on this, so we're not going to discuss this here. To note, a trademark should only be used when its certain that the specific brand or product is used or references. These words are not to be used a generic terms, and the generic terms are provided in each entry. This is not an exhaustive list, so if uncertain if a word could be a trademark, it’s best to look it up.

Trade off (v.), Trade-off (n. and adj.)

Upside down (adv.), Upside-down (adj.)

Upward – NOT upwards

Voice mail – note that it’s two words

Who, whom – Who is the pronoun used for references to human beings and to animals with a name. Grammatically the subject, it is never the object of a sentence, clause or phrase; (ex.) The candidates who attended the group interview left a great impression. Who attended the group interview?

Whom is used when someone is the object of a verb or preposition; (ex.) The candidate to whom a job offer was extended accepted the offer. Whom do you wish to see?

Word processing – do not hyphenate


Work force



An Introduction to Trademarks defines a trademark as a “distinctive name, symbol, motto, or design that legally identifies a company or its products and services, and sometimes prevents others from using identical or similar marks.” There are many words in the English language that are, in fact, trademarks, but aren’t commonly known or recognized as such. This is a list of trademarked words, which should only be used when its certain that the specific brand or product is used or references. These words are not to be used a generic terms, and the generic terms are provided in each entry. This is not an exhaustive list, so if you are uncertain if a word could be a trademark, it’s best to look it up in either an AP Style Handbook or Wikipedia's list, which is a lot more comprehensive.

The only correct time to use a trademark is if you mean that particular brand of item (if someone is actually using Kleenex brand tissues, for example). But, if you mean generic facial tissues, then "facial tissues" needs to be said. Here is my list of some of the more commonly used trademarks, with the generic terms that ought to be used instead.

Band-Aid (bandage or adhesive)

ChapStick (lip balm)

Clorox (bleach)

Hoover (vacuum)

Jacuzzi (hot tub or whirlpool)

Kleenex (facial tissue)

Onesie (infant bodysuit) - Yes, this is still trademarked by Gerber

Photoshop (Photo manipulation)

Ping Pong (table tennis)

Post-It (sticky note)

Q-Tips (cotton swabs)

Realtor (real estate agent) - The word actually refers to members of the National Association of Realtors, not real estate agents in general. The Association goes through great lengths to prevent the word from becoming generic.

Saran Wrap (plastic wrap)

Scotch Tape (clear adhesive tape, or simply tape)

Sharpie (permanent marker)

Speedo (swim briefs) - Yes, this one is also trademarked.

Vaseline (petroleum jelly)

Xerox (photocopier, or to make a copy)