Grammar/Spelling Lesson #5: “Infer” vs. “Imply”
Now this one really drives me nuts. Somehow people have discovered the word “INFER” as though it just fell like manna from the heavens into their loving arms and they are just compelled to use it to show how smart they are. The only problem is that 9 times out of 10 they are using it incorrectly.
If someone is screaming at you at the top of their lungs and jumping up and down while their face turns red, you might INFER that they are angry with you – or, at the very least, pretty upset about something. This is because their behavior has IMPLIED as much. Their behavior did NOT infer it. Their behavior IMPLIED it.
I often scream and jump up and down when someone says something like, “The data INFERS that we should watch the bottom line a little closer.” First of all, I can’t stand “bottom liners.” Aside from that, I scream and jump up and down because “data” cannot infer anything. Ever. Data has no brain with which to think and, therefore, no ability to think. Well, except for Data on Star Trek – but that’s another post entirely and since he’s an android... Well, you get my drift.
In fact you can never know what someone else has inferred. Unless, of course, they tell you. And “things” and “situations” cannot think or reason so they cannot INFER anything. Ever.
Only a sentient being – like you – can INFER (make a conclusion about) the status of a given situation based upon the information you receive through one or more of your senses. But aren’t you just the talented one? Not only can you INFER (conclude) what’s what based upon received information, you can also IMPLY (indirectly suggest) a particular status of something to others by your body language, your actual language, and/or your actions. From your actions, those others might INFER (come to the conclusion) that you are angry, sad, happy, or just nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake. Because your demeanor has IMPLIED as much. But unless they tell you, you will never know what or if they INFERRED anything at all from what you IMPLIED by your words or actions.
So what? So never allow anyone to INFER that you are a fruitcake based upon what your words or actions IMPLY. That’s what.
Correct: His shifty eyes and many lies IMPLIED (suggested) his guilt.
Correct: I can INFER (conclude) that he is guilty based upon his behavior.
Correct: I will never again mess up these two wonderful words because AngelMay has IMPLIED that she will shoot me with a spitball – twice – if I do.
~ AngelMay ~