When we are trying to sound intelligent in our executive communication skills, public speaking, and just talking to a client or prospect, it is important we learn the difference in commonly used words.
My editor and friend Eleanor Dugan AKA Grammar Granny tells us “You Can Sometimes Do Both at the Same Time”
On TV’s The Office, Creed challenges Michael’s grammar: “Michael, he wasn’t inferring, he was implying. You were inferring.”
Infer and imply are often confused, but in this case Michael was technically correct. He was doing both, first inferring something and then implying it. He could hardly imply something that he didn’t know or hadn’t thought about.
To infer is to conclude something from evidence or assumed facts. (Receiving information.)
To imply is to strongly suggest at your conclusion to other people without actually saying what you are thinking. (Sending information indirectly by hinting.)
Here’s a mnemonic (memory aide) to help when you’re not sure:
When you INfer something, you Intake it.
When you IMPly something, you IMPart it.
Check out some obvious right and wrong uses of infer and imply:
• The manager implied from her accent that she is Canadian. WRONG
• They inferred to the manager that they were unhappy with the sound system provided. WRONG
• The manager inferred to the staff that raises are on hold due to the economy. WRONG
• Am I right to infer that you are implying the new product is a success? RIGHT
• The manager inferred from Phil’s excellent speech that he is a skilled communicator. RIGHT
• The manager implied that Phil will soon have a long term contract. HOORAY
©Eleanor Dugan, 2011, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope this helps you. If you are interested in improving your public speaking skills check out Patricia Fripp’s resources. We have digital downloads, CDs, DVDs, books.