Thanks to public service videos like this one, most people know the difference being literally and figuratively. The problem now seems to be people are literally using literally to stress their points, when there’s literally no need to do so. The worst is when educated people misuse the word. I know I’m not the first person to bring this up but it’s literally ridiculous to hear a business professional or someone you otherwise would think knows how to speak, misusing the word.
Most people can distinguish figuratively and literally. One is a figure of speech while the other, informs the listener you are not speaking figuratively.
Example: The inventor’s eyes popped out of his head when he realized how much Liquid Piper would be worth. This is a figure of speech to convey the inventor’s surprise (and delight). At no time did the eyes pop out.
Example: The gangster put another gangster’s head in a vice and applied pressure until his eyes literally popped out of his head. Here, a reader (or listener) may be unsure whether this is a figure of speech or a real (and violent) incident. The use of literal should make it clear.
However, people now use literally to emphasize a point, employing it when really or some other word will work and is more precise. Some people may argue that language is constantly changing but in this case, overusing literally is sloppy word usage. If you’re not sure whether you’re overusing it, just ask someone to literally count how many times you say literally when you don’t mean the opposite of figuratively. Then fine yourself $10 every time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you literally become poor after you literally misuse it over and over.