Some people talk about their mistakes in therapy. Some write about their mistakes in diaries or journals. I write about mine here. That way, I may save other people from making the same errors.
The mistake: disburse vs. disperse.
My mistake was thinking that disburse meant "distribute methodically" while disperse meant "scatter." WRONG!
Disburse means "distribute money." Disperse means "distribute or scatter." Disperse applies to everything except money.
You can disperse knowledge to your students. You can disperse an unruly crowd gathering in your lobby. (And the crowd itself can disperse.) You can disperse flyers about your upcoming sale.
But if it is money you want to distribute, disburse it. The word comes, in part, from the French word for purse, bourse. If it comes from your bourse, disburse it.
This might seem like a small error. Indeed, it is. The problem is that I have dispersed this misinformation to people in my writing classes. If a small error is repeated many times, does it become a big error?
My office is filled with excellent reference books, which I always consult before putting a rule in writing to pass on in classes. That is why I don’t know how I got disperse/disburse wrong. But wrong I was.
I hope you get two things from this post:
- The difference between disperse and disburse
- The fact that experts are sometimes wrong, even with the best intentions
If you have any mistakes to share, please bare your soul here. Of course, please limit yourself to mistakes in business writing.
Other search spellings: bizness, bisness, writting, eror, dispurse