One of my clients advised me to use 'incorrect' over 'wrong' in content writing. I didn't ask him about it but want to have clarification here.

What I understand is the word 'wrong' is pretty insulting and the other word is denying in a polite way. Also, I feel that the word 'incorrect' is used more in writing. See below:

If you write: I was went to the church. It is incorrect
If you speak: I was went to the church. It is wrong

Correct me if I am missing something.

  • If the word 'incorrect' is a polite way to tell it, how do I politely say, "You are wrong!" – Maulik V Nov 11 '13 at 9:19
  • One would say, "I'm afraid that's incorrect". That's really polite. – AJF May 8 '15 at 17:17

I agree that incorrect can be a "softer" word than wrong, particularly when pointing out someone's mistake. The two words indeed overlap in meaning, but the word wrong can be used to refer to moral lapses, while incorrect isn't really used that way. That's why wrong can seem like a "more negative," "more harsh," or "more personal" word than incorrect. Compare these definitions from Collins:

wrong (adjective)
1 not correct or truthful ⇒ the wrong answer
2 acting or judging in error ⇒ you are wrong to think that
3 immoral; bad ⇒ it is wrong to cheat

with these:

incorrect (adjective)
1 false; wrong ⇒ an incorrect calculation
2 not fitting or proper ⇒ incorrect behaviour

As for any difference where you'd use one word for speech and the other for writing, I wouldn't agree with that difference. When talking about grammar problems, I think you could use either one, irrespective of whether speech or writing is being evaluated:

  • That sentence uses the wrong verb tense.
  • That sentence uses an incorrect verb tense.

In that case, wrong isn't all that more "harsh" than incorrect, because it's clear from the context that we are only talking about verb conjugation, and not some kind of moral belief or behavior. I think either sentence could be used to correct someone's speech or writing.

  • I would certainly react differently in each of those last examples, so, if you're in polite company, it's safer to use "incorrect". – AJF May 8 '15 at 17:18

Wrong and incorrect are completely different, and most people use WRONG incorrectly. Think of WRONG as right vs wrong, a moral option...whereas INCORRECT is not a correct spelling, usage, etc., but without any notion of morality.

  • 8
    Your answer is wrong. Where "incorrect" is used, "wrong" can also be used. J.R.'s answer is right. For this sort of question, answers supported by dictionary quotes are preferred. As you can see, J.R.'s answer has quotes which support his viewpoint. – AndyT Nov 4 '15 at 12:14
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    I think this could be worked into a decent answer about a nuance of meaning. There are many words that some folks use interchangeably that I don't. Those folks aren't incorrect, but that doesn't make my usage incorrect either. If there was less insistence that other folks were incorrect, and more elaboration on why someone might make a distinction between wrong and incorrect, this answer would add some value. – ColleenV Nov 4 '15 at 13:31
  • J.R.'s answer clearly includes a dictionary quote with point number 3 stating clearly that the word wrong means immoral. I'm guessing AndyT's response above might have been before that quote was included. It is clear from this that the word "wrong" definitely has immoral connotations. – Neville Feb 1 '17 at 7:22

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