Every week I will demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the one intended. Sometimes this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence. Unfortunately, the mistake is usually so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television.
This is one that everybody makes these days but it should be one that everybody knows is wrong.
Did you literally laugh your head off? Do you literally die inside when you broke up with your last boyfriend/girlfriend?
Literally / Figuratively
No you didn’t – you figuratively did those things. I am not a medical professional but I think it is impossible to literally laugh your head off. The difference is that literally means something that actually happened. When you want to present an image of something, a suggestion of something, then use the word “figuratively”.
On a side note, by my reckoning “literally” is a word that ought to be used very rarely anyway or not at all.
“I literally shouted at him”. What does inclusion of the word “literally” add here over and above “I shouted at him” or if you want to add emphasis to an action, use “actually” – “I actually shouted at him”.