Business Writing

Talk, tips, and best picks for writers on the job.

Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

October 17, 2016

A New Word That's Not a Word: Disconcerning

Lately I have been hearing the word "disconcerning." When it came up yesterday in an interview on NPR (National Public Radio), I knew it was time to write about it. 

"Disconcerning" is actually not a word--at least not a correct one. I've just checked all my dictionaries and style guides. With several of them piled on my desk, I can tell you confidently: "Disconcerning" is simply not a word. 

If the non-word has crept into your vocabulary, below are words you may intend: 

Disconcerting may mean "embarrassing," "confusing," "frustrating" (as in "upsetting"), or "disturbing the composure of" depending on the context.


  • It's disconcerting that the speaker hasn't arrived yet, and his talk should begin in 10 minutes. (frustrating, upsetting, disturbing) 
  • How disconcerting for Karen that the speaker she hired and bragged about did not even show up! (embarrassing, upsetting) 
  • It's disconcerting that my sister is suddenly talking about moving in with us. (disturbing the composure of) 


Discomfiting means "making uneasy or perplexed," "disconcerting." Yes, it's a synonym of disconcerting in some contexts. An archaic meaning is "defeating in battle, vanquishing." 


  • It's discomfiting that all the lights are on at their house, but no one is home. (making uneasy or perplexing, disconcerting) 
  • His outrageous behavior is discomfiting his associates. 


Discomforting means "making uncomfortable," "distressing." As you can guess, it's a synonym for both of the words above. However, Garner's Modern English Usage prefers discomfort as a noun rather than this verb form. Garner recommends the word discomfiting rather than discomforting. 



Are you confident of these tricky words? If not, get my "60 Quick Word Fixes" printed booklet or PDF.


When I choose words for my business communications, clarity wins out over all other concerns. So I don't use disconcerting, discomfiting, or discomforting. Instead I choose words I hope all my readers understand: embarrassing, upsetting, annoying, frustrating, confusing--and maybe worrisome. 

You may choose fancier words, but be sure one of them is not disconcerning. 

Which made up words have you been hearing and seeing in business messages?

Syntax Training 

Previous Post

« Bullet Point Reminders and Greek Delights

October 17, 2016

October 12, 2016

August 26, 2016

August 03, 2016

July 25, 2016

July 08, 2016

June 24, 2016

June 13, 2016

June 02, 2016

May 17, 2016

© 2005-present - Syntax Training - All Rights Reserved