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View Full Version : Commonly Confused Words: Imply and Infer



R. A. Busby
January 12th, 2020, 07:55 PM
Hi! Just some tips to help before you submit an MS to a beta reader, agent, contest, or forum. These are some commonly confused words that tend to distract readers from your writing.

Imply/infer
Almost all the time, people mean "imply." When you "imply," you suggest, you drop hints, you give clues, you indicate that there's something more going on below the surface.

Example: Kelsey looked at me. "Oh, my date was interesting, all right." By her tone, I could tell she was implying that Chad had been more than the mere jerk he had seemed on Tinder.

When we infer, we take a hint, get a clue, figure something out. Think of it this way: Imply goes outward. Kelsey's tone sends the signal OUT to the audience. Infer (look at the "in" part) goes inside.

Example: From Kelsey's tone, I easily inferred that Chad had been more than the mere jerk he had seemed. (Here, the audience TAKES IN the signal Kelsey's tone is sending.)


A good way to remember them is this: If you want to use imply, can you replace it with suggest or hint? If so, you've used it correctly.
Example: By her tone, I could tell she was suggesting/hinting that Chad had been more than the mere jerk he had seemed on Tinder.

If you want to use infer, can you replace it with figured out or guessed? If so, you've used it correctly.
Example: From Kelsey's tone, I easily guessed/figured out that Chad had been more than the mere jerk he had seemed.

Phil Istine
January 13th, 2020, 09:53 AM
Yes, so true, infer is often used that way. It's not something I'd really noticed until you mentioned it.