Monday, August 24, 2015

Commonly Misused Words

This is, by no means, a complete list of misused words, just the ones I’ve seen most often, both as an editor and as a person on the receiving end of edits.

- A -

accept/except
Accept means “to receive”. Except means “not including or other than”. Example: Jane accepted John’s awards on his behalf, all of them except for Best Screen Play.

advise/advice
Advise is a verb “offering guidance or suggestions” while advice is the noun referring to the “guidance or suggestions”. Example: Jane advised her friend to quit drinking, but John didn’t take Jane’s advice.

affect/effect
Affect is a verb which means “to influence”; effect is a noun which means “a result of” and a verb that means “to accomplish”. Example: The effect of a drought affects crop growth.

a lot/alot
A lot means “many”; Alot is not a word, so don’t use it ever. Ever, ever, ever. Ever! Example: I want to publish a lot of books.

all ready/already
All ready means “prepared”; already means “by this time”. Example: The meal was all ready when everyone arrived. The meal was already finished when the guests arrived. Tip: A good rule of thumb is that if you can just use the word “ready” and the sentence still makes sense, it’s two words.

anymore/any more
Anymore is an adverb meaning “any longer” while any more is an adjective dealing with “quantity.” Example: I don’t love you anymore; I don’t have any more clean clothes. Tip: generally, if you can remove the “any” part and the sentence still makes sense, it’s two words.

apart/a part
Apart means “to be separated” while a part is actually the indefinite article “a” with the word “part”. Example: My backyard fence keeps my dog and my neighbor’s dog apart; a part of me with always love him.

ascent/assent
Ascent has to do with “climbing” while assent has to do with “agreement.” Example: The road’s sudden ascent made my ears pop; I gave assent to the mechanic to change my wiper blades.

- B -

breath/breathe
Breath is a noun describing the inhalation and exhalation while breathe is the action of inhaling and exhaling. Example: Her breath was ragged; she couldn’t breathe.

- C -

capital/capitol
Capital refers to the “seat of government” or deals with “financial resources”. Capitol is the actual building where a legislative body meets. Example: Washington DC is the capital of America; its also where the U.S. Capitol building is located.

cite/sight/site
Cite means “to quote” from a source. Sight refers to “vision” and site refers to a physical place. Example: He had to cite 5 sources for his term paper. He was losing his sight and had trouble seeing small print. They built the new building on the site of the previous building.

complement/compliment
Complement (with an e) is usually used as a noun referring to “something that completes” something else; but compliment (with an i) is both a noun and a verb that deal with “praise” and the “act of praising” someone. Example: White wine is a good complement to seafood; she complimented her mom on a well-cooked dinner.

conscience/conscious
Conscience is a noun that describes a person’s “sense of right and wrong” while “conscious“ is an adjective referring to being “awake.” Example: A person conscience gives them a sense of right and wrong; John was hit in the head with a softball, but he remained conscious.

council/counsel
A council is a noun that describes a “group that advises“ while counsel is a verb that means “to advise.” Example: The Great Council provides counsel for the entire magickal community.

- D -

dragged/drug
Dragged is the past tense of the verb “to drag” while drug can be used as both a noun and a verb but always in reference to medicine/illicit substances or the act of giving a person medicine/illicit substances. Example: John dragged Jan from the street after she passed out. There’s a new drug on the market to battle cancer; the villain in my WIP was arrested for drugging women at bars.

- E -

effect/affect
Effect is a noun which means “a result of” and a verb that means “to accomplish” while affect is a verb which means “to influence”. Example: The effect of the drought truly affected the farmers whose crop growth was down.

elicit/illicit
Elicit is a verb that means “to draw out” while illicit is an adjective referring to “illegal” action. Example: The poem elicited a strong emotion from the reader. The eBook pirates were arrested for their illicit actions.

except/accept
Except means “not including or other than” and accept means “to receive”. Example: Jane accepted John’s awards on his behalf, all of them except for Best Screen Play.

- F -

Further/Farther
Further refers to “metaphorical distance” while farther refers to “physical distance.” Example: We’re going farther into the forest tonight; we’re not going to discuss it any further.

- I -

illicit/elicit
Illicit is an adjective referring to “illegal” action while elicit is a verb that means “to draw out” while. Example: The eBook pirates were arrested for their illicit actions. The poem elicited a strong emotion from the reader.

its/it’s
Its is a determiner meaning “belonging to” while it’s is a contraction for “it is”. Example: The dog dropped its bone; it’s a very stupid idea.

- L -

lie/lay
This entry is a bit too complex for a simple definition. Click here to read a full explanation. 

loose/lose
Loose is both an adjective meaning “not tightly fixed in place” and a verb meaning “to set free or release”. Lose is a verb meaning “to misplace or not win”. Example: Jane lost twenty pounds now her jeans are loose. John stubbed his toe and let loose a scream that could be heard down the block. John didn’t lose his keys until he took that last shot of tequila.

- P -

passed/past
Passed is the past tense form of  the verb “to pass” (to have moved) while past can be used as a noun, preposition, adjective and adverb. It can refer to “a former time” or “on the other side” of something. Yeah, past is pretty versatile, but it’s not a verb. Example: John passed right by Jane in the supermarket but didn’t see her. George Washington is one of our past presidents. To get to my house, turn right just past the fire station. 

principal/principle
Principal can be used as both an adjective meaning “most important” or a noun referring to “a person who has authority” while principle is a noun referring to “a general or fundamental truth.” Example: The principal violinist is a bit of an egomaniac; the principal at my daughter’s school is a woman; we’re learning about the principle of gravity today.

- S -
sight/site/cite
Sight refers to “vision” and site refers to a physical place. Cite means “to quote” from a source. Example: He was losing his sight and had trouble seeing small print. They built the new building on the site of the previous building. He had to cite 5 sources for his term paper.

stationary/stationery
Stationary is an adjective referring to “standing still” while stationery is a noun referring to “writing paper”. Example: The accident was John’s fault because he ran into a stationary object; John wrote Jane a note on the stationery she bought him for his birthday.

- T -

than/then
Than is a conjunction and preposition used with comparisons while then is an adverb referring to “after that; next; afterward” and “at that time; next”. Example: I would rather go out to eat than eat at home; I ate all the ice cream in the freezer and then went to bed.

their/there/they’re
Their is the possessive form of they; there indicates location; and they’re is the contraction form of “they are.” Example: Their car is red. There goes her last chance at love. They’re still dating.

through/threw
Through means “by means of; finished; into or out of” while threw is the past tense form of “to throw.” Example: I walked through the dark woods and survived; John threw the baseball to his son.

thorough/through
Thorough means “careful or complete” while though means “however; nevertheless.” Example: John thoroughly cleaned his apartment before Jane’s arrival; Jane looks like a diva though, on the inside, she’s one tough old bird.

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