Commonly Confused Words of the Month: “I Could Care Less”

editors-cornerBy Chris Saylor

Remember back in my first post, when I told you that I believe you need to know the rules so that you can know when and how to break them? In my Commonly Confused Words of the Month feature, I’m going to be going over words and phrases that you might want to use in dialogue to show something about your character, but you never want to use elsewhere.

This month I’ll be looking at the phrase I could care less.

The correct phrase to use is actually I couldn’t care less. This is because I couldn’t care less is what you would say to show that you really have no thoughts left to give for whatever it is you’re discussing. You’re showing the maximum amount of apathy that you can possibly show.

I could care less, on the other hand, indicates that you still have some regard for the situation at hand. You have thoughts left to give for whatever it is you’re discussing. You’re showing that you still care about the situation at least a little bit.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most you could care about something and 0 meaning you don’t care at all about something, I could care less means you fall in the 1 to 10 range, and I couldn’t care less means you’re at 0.

This is not a regional thing. It is more common to hear this phrase misused in some regions, but could and couldn’t cannot mean the same thing or language ceases to have any meaning at all.

Is there a word or phrase that you often hear that bothers you? Share it in the comments below and I’ll be sure to address it.

Every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be here in the Editor’s Corner, simplifying some of these grammar concepts for you and showing you how they specifically apply to your fiction. Coming up next week is The Importance of Using Contractions.

Want to hire Chris for a proofread or copy edit? You can find out more about him at, or you can email him to talk about rates and availability at christopher.saylor21 [at] You might also want to check out the book he co-wrote with Marcy, Grammar for Fiction Writers, available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or Apple iBooks.

Image Credit: Dave Di Biase/