Use empathy to mean that you understand a person’s situation because you have experienced the same thing.
- Marguerite is well-suited to the role. She has a natural empathy with clients.
- Empathy allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes.
Use sympathy when you care for someone and offer words or actions of assistance.
- I passed on our sympathy to her family.
- There was a good deal of sympathy for members of the losing team.
Learned or Learnt?
When used as the past tense of learn, these words are interchangeable.
- She learned/learnt about it from Jeff.
- I learned/learnt the hard way.
Purposefully or Purposely?
Purposefully means with a sense of purpose; with determination.
Purposely means to do something intentionally, with a specific purpose in mind.
- I tackled the job purposefully. I was full of energy and enthusiasm.
- He purposefully pursued his goal.
- The report was purposely full of obscure and confusing terminology..
- He purposely left his business card on the Marketing Director’s desk. He wanted to meet with her again.
Shaun McNicholas is the founder and principal of Cool Rules [for writers], an Adelaide-based consultancy working with organisations across Australia to improve workplace writing. He is the author of Cool English: A Musical Guide to Better Grammar and Writing (2001), The Apostrophe Song iPhone app and the Cool Rules Really Useful Quick-Guide to Australian Punctuation.