Perspective vs Prospective

By | Nov 3, 2008

Creative Commons License photo credit: ellievanhoutte

In my career as an Administrative Assistant, I’ve seen some grammar mistakes that are fairly common:  its vs. it’s, they’re vs. their, to vs. too.  One mistake that I see all too frequently has always puzzled me.  Perspective vs. Prospective.

This seems to be a fairly common mistake, and not just among the uneducated or those for whom English is not their first language.  One of my bosses had a Masters degree and was one of the most educated and articulate persons I’ve ever known, and he made mistakes using perspective and prospective.

Actually, I’ve never seen anyone use prospective when they mean perspective.  The common error is to use perspective when they mean prospective. I see it on the internet, in business writing, and have even seen it in magazine articles.

So here’s the dish on using the words Prospective and Perspective properly (don’t you just love alliteration):

  • Prospective is an adjective referring to something happening in the future or likely to happen.  If you have lunch with a possible future client, you refer to hiim as a prospective client.
  • Perspective is a noun referring either to a physical view or vista or a mental view or outlook.  You can refer to your view of a scene as your perspective.  You can refer to your view on politics as your perspective.  You never refer to a potential client as a perspective client.  That would be incorrect.

So, next time your boss gives you a letter to proof and you see him use the term “perspective client” or anyother inaccurate use of the word perspective, correct it and give it back to him.

What other words do you regularly see used incorrectly that just drive you crazy?

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13 Comments so far
  1. Debbie Lane (2 comments) November 7, 2008 5:47 am

    It makes me crazy when someone uses the word irregardless! It is regardless, the ir is redundant.

  2. Jodith (189 comments) November 7, 2008 7:12 am

    Oh, me too. I used to fight with my mother about that one all the time.

  3. Amelia (2 comments) January 12, 2009 4:10 pm

    When I was a kid, my second grade teacher would line us up at the door before recess, and not let us leave until we could correctly pronouce “jewelry,” “performance,” and “library” (instead of jew-luh-ry, pre-formance, and li-bary). I have always appreciated that!

  4. Amelia (2 comments) January 12, 2009 4:11 pm

    Too bad she didn’t make us spell pronounce each day too…

  5. Jodith (189 comments) January 15, 2009 2:02 pm

    My second grade teacher was also a stickler for pronunciation. She impressed on all of us that we are judged by how well we speak.

    Thanks, Mrs. Crosby, for teaching us that lesson!

  6. Roberto Coin (1 comments) March 6, 2009 7:20 pm

    HA! I’m in the same boat. My 2nd grade teacher was huge on the correct pronouciation on my words. Too bad she was keen on my speling.

  7. Ivy Wigmore (1 comments) August 27, 2009 5:41 am

    Back in my schooldays, there was much more emphasis on grammar and pronunciation.

    What drives me nearly around the bend? Businessmen using “myself” as an alternative for “I” or “me.”

  8. Jodith (189 comments) August 27, 2009 7:43 am

    Ohhh…another one that makes me crazy. Thanks for the link! It’s a good explanation of using (or not as the case may be) myself.

  9. pest control prices (1 comments) January 23, 2010 3:29 pm

    I don’t know, I’ve never really been all that annoyed by someone’s use of punctuation and grammar. Just never really bothers me to see those kinds of mistakes, or course, I certainly make the same mistakes as well.

  10. Jodith (189 comments) January 31, 2010 1:52 pm

    The main problem is using the wrong grammar in a business setting. It can reflect on the company itself if employees can’t use the language properly.

  11. Anger Children (1 comments) March 14, 2010 11:42 pm

    my teacher impressed on all of us that we are judged by how well we speak. Mrs. Crosby, thanks, for teaching us that lesson!
    .-= Anger Children´s last blog ..How do I find the freezing point depression of a Naphthalene Solution? =-.

  12. Herman (1 comments) March 19, 2013 5:18 am

    “and not just among the uneducated or those for whom English is their first language”; you meant English is NOT their first language”

    We all make mistakes!

  13. Jodith (189 comments) March 20, 2013 9:17 pm

    Oops…you’re absolutely correct. Let me fix that.


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