When The Word “Literally” Is Literally Misused

Five years ago, today, I started this Mary’s Secretary blog; I published my first blog post ever on September 15th (Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Feast day). Which, was my very own feast day in Carmel and I intend to always and forever keep it, especially with entering into the anchorite call. My one request I made to Mary, in Carmel as a postulant, since we could not choose our own names at all, was to somehow unite Her Heart and Sorrows in the religious name. So, you can imagine the look on my face when “of the Sorrowful Heart” became my title. I could not have picked a better one on my own, if I do say so myself.

In honor of this anniversary, however, I do want to publish a light-hearted (good humored) blog post. I do not normally write posts like this one, but I have been wanting to for a while and am going to take advantage of this platform to do so! My biggest pet peeve, and eye roller, in the whole world is when people misuse the word literally. As soon as I hear it used the wrong way or for no reason, I grimace and my opinion of the person is automatically lowered; I cannot help it! It is just as terribly misused (and overused) as the word “like”. I have some pretty hilarious examples of how I have seen it used the wrong way, which I will share in this post. One of my Mother Superiors, who began a foundation in Australia, first made me aware of it when she said,

Literally is almost always used the wrong way. For example, ‘I literally died’.

So, if you ACTUALLY literally died, you would not have been able to even say that sentence, because you would… in fact… be dead! If you did not literally just die, please check your pulse- just to be safe- and then go buy yourself a dictionary. Come on now. What has our society come to? This is absolutely appalling! And quite frankly embarrassing. After Mother said this, I started looking out for “the word” being used inappropriately, and I was astonished how even those who have published their own books and have degrees in English do not know when to NOT use it.

Definition: in a literal manner or sense; exactly.


“The driver took it literally when asked to go straight across the traffic circle”


Used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true. “I was literally blown away by the response I got”. This would HAVE to mean you were TRULY blown away (this is just laughable trying to picture it!)

There are two exact ways to embarrass yourself:

And Joe literally does not even literally need to try to embarrass himself… literally.

Just wrong (but still hilarious):

1.) “I literally died”. (Wow, did you literally come back to life, too?)

2.) “I literally devoured the book.” (When I heard this one I laughed and laughed, as I pictured someone trying to LITERALLY eat a book, because you could only use that word if you were actually taking the book to your mouth to eat it.)

3.) “It took me literally forever.” (No it did not, because if that were the case you would never stop until you died. Like Buzz Light-Year you would also be saying “infinity and beyond!”)

4.) “I literally walked out of the confessional walking on air”. (No you did not, because last I checked, I did not see you levitating when you walked out.)

5.) “I was so mad at my boss that I literally jumped out of the window!” ( No you did not, because you would not be alive to tell the tale- unless you were on the first floor perhaps.)

Not necessary to be included in a sentence ( just as we see “like” or “um” used)

My face when it’s used for no good reason.

1.) “I literally don’t care”. (all you have to say is, “I don’t care”)

2.) “I literally know!” (Just say, “I know”)

3.) “I literally feel like I can have a cup of coffee right now”. (What is that? There are just several things wrong with that sentence. I do not know what is worse- using it for the sake of it, or saying you literally jumped out a window).

I do enjoy trying to picture the “just wrong” scenarios that come across my mind when I hear them, though. All I can say is, I care far too much about the beauty of the English language to see it abused this way. Shakespeare and Jane Austen would LITERALLY (not) be rolling in their graves right now if they saw what has become of our current society. PLEASE Literally stop using literally unless you are talking about something that has literally happened.

I personally do not literally want to punch you in the face; I just want you to understand how to use the word.

And now that you have hopefully literally read this post, I hope you literally never use the word literally incorrectly ever again. Literally.