What is the difference between imply and infer?

Dear readers:

Many words are unwittingly misused by writers.  As a service to his readers, the Scribe will occasionally—like today—discuss some of the more commonly misused words.  Today we review “imply” and “infer.”

The simplest explanation of the difference between the two words is that a writer or speaker implies (suggests)—while a reader or listener infers (deduces), e.g.,

  • The Scribe’s remarks about the Dodgers implied a strong loyalty to the team.
  • From the Scribe’s remarks, Joel inferred that he didn’t like the Cardinals.
  • Your weak hitting effort implies a lack of work in the batting cage.
  • Am I right to infer from your effort that you don’t want a contract extension?

Far too often, writers and speakers use infer as if it were synonymous with imply; but it isn’t, and you should be careful to distinguish between the two words.

That is all for now …

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Filed under Troublesome Words

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