After writing Tuesday’s blog, I got to thinking about all of the words we misuse. The one that I misuse the most is to instead of too. I know the correct one to use, but because I’m on a roll with the words flowing, I’m not always as careful as I would normally be. I have also mixed up it’s/its and pique/peak/peek.
I pulled this list together from various sites on the internet. All of these words resonated with me, and I could see how easy it would be to misuse them.
I hope this helps, or at least makes you think about the word you are about to use.
- Affect/Effect – Affect is to pretend or influence and it’s a verb. Effect is a result and it is a noun.
- Your/You’re – Your shows possession. You’re is a contraction of the words you and are or you and were.
- It’s/Its – It’s is a contraction of the words it and is or it and has. Its shows possession and does not require an apostrophe.
- Literally – This one isn’t so much misspelled as it is misused by those that don’t understand the definition. If you’re not sure, literally means something that actually, truly and in all reality happened. In most cases you want to use the word figuratively.
- Irregardless – is technically a word…even if most English majors refuse to accept it as one. It is considered an improper word, as is ain’t and conversate. To keep from sounding uneducated, just use regardless instead.
- A Lot/Alot – Alot is not a word. It is two words…a lot.
- e.g./i.e. – When you see e.g. think ‘eggsample’. On the other hand, in essence is represented by i.e.
- Insure/Ensure/Assure – Insure means to purchase or have insurance. Ensure is to make certain of something. Assure is comfort or lend confidence, as in the word reassure.
- Mute/Moot – Mute is to make quite or without voice. Moot means something has little to no practical value. Note which definition is used in the phrase, ‘a moot point’.
- Disinterested/Uninterested – Disinterested means you don’t have a stake, claim or interest in something. Uninterested is when there is no interest…as in unconcerned or unenthusiastic about something.
- Lay/Lie – This one is kind of tricky because lay is also the past tense of lie. Any time you move an object you lay it down. Lie means to recline. A good rule of thumb is to use sit and set. If sit will work in its place, use lie. If set could be used, go with lay.
- Pique/Peek/Peak – Something may pique your interest…or you might peek at a present…or reach a sort of peak.
- Stationary/Stationery – Stationary, with an a, refers to something immovable or fixed…like a stationary bike. Stationery, with an e, is pretty paper.
- Then/Than – Then refers to time. Than is used when making a comparison: I like chocolate more than candy.
- Invoke/Evoke – To invoke is to call upon a higher power for aid or assistance. To evoke is to recall a memory or feeling.
- Continuous/Continual – Continuous is something that continues without cease. Continual happens over a long period of time.
- Accept/Except – To accept is to receive. Except means to exclude.
- Chronic/Acute – Chronic is long-term and usually debilitating. The use of acute implies a sudden on-set of symptoms. Chronic and acute are also used to classify pain. Acute would be sudden, like stubbing your toe, while anyone who’s suffered recurring back pain knows the first-hand definition of chronic.
- Allusion/Illusion/Elusion – Allusion is a reference to something. Illusion is a misconception and also refers to magic and illusionists. Elusion is to escape. The writer alluded to the famous illusions of Houdini, who was famous for eluding death by narrow escape.
- Assent/Ascent – Assent means to agree, while ascent refers to a journey upward.
- Borne/Born – Borne means to bare or carry, born refers to the birth of something.
- Canvass/Canvas – Canvass is when you spread the word about something or hand out fliers. Canvas is fabric.
- Complimentary/Complementary – Complimentary is something given for free (complimentary breakfast) or something said as a matter or praise, or compliment. Complementary is when things complement, or support and benefit, each other.
- Disburse/Disperse – Disburse usually refers to funds or money and means to pay out. Disperse is to scatter or spread over an area.
- Reign/Rein – Another two commonly misused words are reign and rein. To reign is to lord over. Reins are the straps you use to steer an animal.
- Imply/Infer – Here are another set of words that are commonly confused. To imply something is to hint at it. It isn’t said directly but there is an implied meaning. To infer is to find meaning in what was left unsaid.
- Set/Sit – Use set when placing an object. Use sit when you are relaxing at a picnic table or on a log…or in a reclining pool chair in the sun.
- Pallet/Palate/Palette – Pallets are wood shipping bases. The palate refers to your sense of taste. A palette is the board an artist uses for holding and mixing paints.
- Site/Sight/Cite – Site refers to an area. Use sight when seeing with your eyes or referring to vision. To cite is to refer to the work or accomplishment of another.
- Whether/Weather – Whether is when one thing relies on another or there is a choice. Use weather when talking about the conditions outside.
- Everyday/Every day – The meanings of these commonly misused words are subtly different. The difference in choosing between them will be your intention as a writer. Everyday (one word) means average or common. Every day (two words) means each day, separately. That was redundant.
- Won’t/Wont – Won’t is a loose contraction of the words will and not. Wont isn’t used much anymore but refers to a likelihood or accustomed behavior. When we say that someone is wont to do something, we mean that it is usual.
- Vain/Vein/Vane – Vain can mean concerned with one’s appearance. Veins are the blood highways in the body. Weather vanes are vanes.
- Pored/Poured – Here’s another subtle difference that results in misuse. When you use the word pore, you mean you carefully studied or meditated on something. When you write the word pour, there’s usually liquid involved.
- Suit/Suite – Obviously a suit is an article of clothing but the word can also be used to describe a legal matter, the courting of a woman, or something appropriate or beneficial. A suite on the other hand refers to a collection. A collection of rooms becomes a hotel suite. Computer programs come in collections called suites. Even a personal staff of attendants is described as a suite.
- There/Their/They’re – Use there to describe a place. Their is the possessive of they. They’re is a contraction of they are or they were.
- To/Two/Too – To is when you send a letter or give a gift. Two is how the number is spelled. Too means in excess or in addition or also.
- Lose/Loose – These commonly confused words are just plain similar, like chose and choose.
- Faze/Phase – Faze is to be affected. Phase describes a step in a plan or development.
- Counsel/Council – Counsel is advice or legal assistance and can be used as both a noun and a verb. Council is a group of people brought together to exchange ideas and make decisions and is always a noun.
- Who/Whom – Who is the subject of the sentence and whom is the object.
- Bare/Bear-Bare means naked. Bear is to carry something or a large furry animal that you want to avoid.
So what words do you mix up?
4 thoughts on “Words, Words, and More Words”
Great hints. Even though I know most of these, I miss them in my writing. I’ll be checking my mss for them.
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A timely reminder – just this morning I hesitated as I was writing lose/loose
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Thanks for stopping by 🙂
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