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Correctly using the word "literally"
"Literally" is used in speech when a phrase that is normally meant figuratively is instead meant, yes, literally, i.e. using the primary definitions of the words involved.

Examples of proper uses:
"I literally bought the farm" when discussing your purchase of land you will use to grow produce.

"He literally died laughing" in an obituary about a deceased man's heart failure from excessive exuberance.

"John literally went the whole nine yards" when analyzing a running back's most recent play in American football.


"Literally" is incorrectly and overwhelmingly used by the misinformed as some sort of vague intensifier. For some reason people think that putting "literally" in front of a description or action makes the following word more important or distinguished. This is outside the meaning of the word "literally" and should be considered abusive.

When in doubt, I find it helps to ask yourself this question when considering the word "literally": "What would it mean for me to figuratively do/feel what I'm saying?" If there is no figurative meaning to your sentence then you should not be calling for a literal interpretation.

Examples of incorrect "intensifiers":

"I literally hate it when people misuse the word 'literally'." No, I just plain hate it, or maybe I really hate it.

"I literally have to agree with this blog." What would it mean to figuratively agree with a blog? Nothing, so "literally" is misused.


The worst abuse is declaring something to be literal when it is really meant figuratively. This screams ignorance (no, it does not literally scream ignorance) and makes you sound like an idiot to anyone with a decent education.

Examples of the worst abuse:
"The comedian was so funny I literally peed myself." This is wrong unless your pants are soaked with urine because you lost control of your bladder during a comedy show.

"I love that kid. I would kill for him, literally." -- Kristen Stewart re: her New Moon co-star. Scary if she means it.



A lot of lazy/uninformed people will claim that this is all nitpicking and that only losers care about this sort of thing. Somewhat true. It is, however, important in life to communicate clearly, and improperly using words is an easy way for messages to be misunderstood. Imagine someone reporting that a policeman "literally shot first and asked questions later"; did the officer kill an innocent without just cause, or are we falsely suspicious because a witness doesn't know how to properly use the word "literally"? That's an important distinction only possible with correct use of vocabulary and grammar. Get it done.

Good night.


TLDR: stop abusing the word "literally." Do not use it in place of "really" or "seriously." Make sure you really want your words to be taken using their strict definition and not in a figurative way.



P.S.: this is only a 3/4-serious post.

P.P.S.: inb4 someone makes an intentional ironic misuse of the word "literally."

P.P.P.S: inb4 someone makes an unintentional ironic misuse of the word "literally."

Comments

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nealdt wrote at 2:06 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Yes, I am a HUGE NERD.
Hunter Keeba wrote at 2:07 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Know I literally know how to use the word ;o;
Surreal wrote at 2:08 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
lol
ThuhOne wrote at 2:10 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Its so lame and uncool to not want to sound like an idiot.
falln wrote at 2:10 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
how could you possibly get away with calling this 3/4 serious
Tairbear wrote at 2:10 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
i was waiting for this blog
Sergeant Slaughter wrote at 2:11 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
what the bloody hell,
this had to be explained?
mikeHAZE wrote at 2:11 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
this is literally not
Eggz wrote at 2:12 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
word *****
Scout wrote at 2:12 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Hawt
Sky`.mp3 wrote at 2:13 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
This literally changed the way I use the word.
Sean wrote at 2:15 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
neal for prez.
nealdt wrote at 2:15 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
SKY YER KILLIN ME HERE.
Tairbear wrote at 2:16 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Neal is literally raging at sky.
Coney wrote at 2:17 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
did you literally make this because of my blog

literally?
nealdt wrote at 2:18 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Nah, this has been coming for a while. I actually wrote my reply to you while still working on this. YES I'M A NERD.
ShadowHero wrote at 2:19 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
LOL SKY & CONEY.

God I love this site.
Mittens McKittens wrote at 2:21 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
I literally recommend this blog.

ps: Neal is a nerd.
invert wrote at 2:21 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
tcs can't inb4

but good blog
Zip. wrote at 2:21 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
lol
Magnatoon wrote at 2:21 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
surprised you didn't make a blog addressing 'your' and 'you're'
invert wrote at 2:23 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
@magnatoon

shut up its not that important
Regret94 wrote at 2:25 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
wat is this I don't even..
Meridius wrote at 2:27 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
ThuhOne wrote at 11:10 PM on Mar 14, 2011 :
Its so lame and uncool to not want to sound like an idiot.
KingJuan1 wrote at 2:35 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
you even posted before the blog was made
E.Nigma wrote at 2:36 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Next, do one about the word "myself"
Oats wrote at 2:44 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
I like it in irony.
A2ZOMG wrote at 2:46 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
neal, I love you. Not literally.

I still love how correct this blog is. I happen to be a very literal person myself.
Granite wrote at 2:48 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
I love your nerdiness.

literally.
Dajayman wrote at 2:50 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Lol, Neal thinking this blog will make people stop misusing "literally".

I will literally kill myself if people stop misusing literally.
Literally.
GAY wrote at 2:50 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
"The comedian was so funny I literally peed myself." This is wrong unless your pants are soaked with urine because you lost control of your bladder during a comedy show.

That's how lingo works man.
Kishin wrote at 2:51 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
similar to the oatmeal
Firefly wrote at 2:54 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
One of my profs both misuses and overuses the phrase "quite literally", and I can't stand it. I struggle to hold my tongue most of the time whenever I hear somebody misuse the word. :x I DON'T CARE HOW NERDY THIS IS, IT BUGS ME TO NO END

inb4thesmartasses
Dahniska wrote at 3:05 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
I literally think this is an exaggeration that's been literally over-exagerrated a lot.
Toonblade wrote at 3:39 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
This made me literally laugh, literally.
Masterdrenin wrote at 4:02 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
AH_EYEEEEEIGHT
Granite wrote at 4:16 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
Ignorance is literally bliss. QUIT MAKING ME LEARN THINGS LITERALLY DAMNIT!
GenoNyght wrote at 4:26 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
How saddening.
Pikadude31451 wrote at 4:38 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
The word "Ironic" is butchered a lot, too. It's most likely one of the most abused words in the american vocabulary.
Fierce wrote at 4:46 AM on Mar 15, 2011 :
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