If you’ve had the distinction of mixing up ‘dubious’ and ‘doubtful’, you’re not alone…
How often have you overheard someone in the street saying something along the lines of, “I’m a bit dubious about whether my taxi’s turning up or not”?
Chances are, if you’ve had to physically restrain yourself from clobbering the linguistic offender, you’re already attuned to this subtle distinction.
For the avoidance of, erm, ‘doubt’, our chums at the Oxford English Dictionary helpfully suggest thinking about it this way: something that is ‘doubtful’ is ‘in doubt’, whereas something that is ‘dubious’ is a ‘cause of doubt’.
By saying that she is ‘dubious’, our wannabe taxi passenger in the above example is inadvertently implying that she is the cause of her own situation.
If she had instead declared, “I’m a bit doubtful about whether my taxi’s turning up,” or indeed, “I’m a bit dubious about the taxi firm’s promise to be here in five minutes,” she could have avoided the withering stares and social ostracism from her friends.
See? At Wordsworks, we’re not just business copywriters extraordinaire, we’re also here to spare your blushes day in, day out.