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added bonus

People who avoid redundancies tend to object to the extremely popular phrase “added bonus” because a bonus is already something additional. Speakers who use this phrase probably think of “bonus” as meaning something vaguely like “benefit.” The phrase is so common that it’s unlikely to cause you real problems.

More people frown on the similarly redundant “and plus”: “I was fired, and plus I never got my last paycheck.” Just say “and” or “plus.”

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addicting

Do you find beer nuts addicting or addictive? “Addicting” is a perfectly legitimate word, but much less common than “addictive,” and some people will scowl at you if you use it.

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ad nauseum

Seeing how often ad nauseam is misspelled makes some people want to throw up. English writers also often mistakenly half-translate the phrase as ad nausea.

This Latin phrase comes from a term in logic, the argumentum ad nauseam, in which debaters wear out the opposition by just repeating arguments until they get sick of the whole thing and give in.

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actionable / doable

“Actionable” is a technical term referring to something that provides grounds for a legal action or lawsuit. People in the business world have begun using it as a fancy synonym for “doable” or “feasible.” This is both pretentious and confusing.

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acronyms and apostrophes

One unusual use of the apostrophe is in plural acronyms, like “ICBM’s” “NGO’s” and “CD’s”. Since this pattern violates the rule that apostrophes are not used before an S indicating a plural, many people object to it. It is also perfectly legitimate to write “CDs,” etc. See also “50’s.” But the use of apostrophes with initialisms like “learn your ABC’s and “mind your P’s and Q’s” is now so universal as to be acceptable in almost any context.

Note that “acronym” was used originally only to label pronounceable abbreviations like “NATO,” but is now generally applied to all sorts of initialisms. Be aware that some people consider this extended definition of “acronym” to be an error.

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accurate / precise

In ordinary usage, “accurate” and “precise” are often used as rough synonyms, but scientists like to distinguish between them. Accurate measurements reflect true values; but precise measurements are close to each other, even if all of them are wrong in the same way. The same distinction applies in scientific contexts to the related words “accuracy” and “precision.”

This distinction is not likely to come up outside of contexts where it is understood, but science writers might want to be aware that the general public will not understand this distinction unless it’s explained.

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