From My Desk To Yours – 28th Edition

GUIDE TO MISUSED WORDS
By: Penny, EzineArticles Managing Editor

English is a complex language to both understand and use. There are often dozens of different ways to express a single thought or idea in words. On top of that, there are confusing language elements like homonyms, jargon, loaded words and other awkward word combinations that can trip us up.

Even adults who’ve been using English their entire lives can’t be faulted for consulting a dictionary to make sure they’re using a word correctly or to see if what they’re saying makes sense.

It would be nearly impossible to put to rest every question about misused words in a single blog post, but today we decided to share some of the most common ones we’ve come across. Then we’ll leave it up to you to ask any lingering questions you still have or, better yet, share your own tips.

Answering Some of the Most Commonly Asked Word Choice Questions

Affect vs. Effect

This one gives a lot of people trouble. The word “affect” has two possible meanings. Most commonly, it’s used as a verb meaning “have an influence on” or “change”, as in “That experience affected me very much.” It can also be used as a general term meaning emotion, as in “She absorbed the news with little affect.”

On the other hand, “effect” is usually a noun meaning “result,” as in “When I started wearing a watch, the effect was that I never missed another appointment.”

Of course, there are also a few other uses, like the things in your purse are your personal “effects,” and in a science fiction movie there are usually some special “effects.”

Could Have, Should Have, Would Have

When spoken, the contraction “could’ve” usually comes out sounding like “could of”, however this is not correct. Instead, the correct spelling is always could’ve. This goes for could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, must’ve, etc.

Other Common Mistakes

  • Accept vs. Except – “Accept” means “to receive”, while “except” usually means “but” or “to leave out.”
     
  • Desert vs. Dessert – A “desert” is a dry, arid region. Also, it could be a verb meaning “to abandon.” “Dessert” is a dish served at the end of the meal. Think about it this way: when it comes to desserts, you should always ask for a second helping of the “s”.
     
  • I.e. vs. E.g. – “I.e” is the Latin abbreviation of “id est,” which means “that is.” Use this in place of “in other words” or when you’re making something more clear. “E.g.” is the Latin abbreviation of “exempli gratia,” which means “for example.”
     
  • Its vs. It’s – “It’s” is always a contraction for “it is”, while “its” is the possessive form of the pronoun “it.”
     
  • Then vs. Than – “Than” is used to compare two things, while “then” tells when.
     
  • There vs. Their vs. They’re – “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” “Their” is a possessive pronoun, as in “Their website is easy to navigate.” “There” is either an adverb specifying a place or it’s an expletive. “You should make your way over there (adverb) to see the museum. There (expletive) is a fascinating prehistoric animal exhibit running right now.”
     
  • To vs. Too vs. Two – “Two” is the number 2. “To” is a preposition. “Too” is an adverb meaning “excessively” or “also.”
     
  • Toward – There is no “s” at the end of the word, even though when spoken the “s” may sound natural.

What can you add to this list?

20 Comments »


1
Dee Dawber writes:

Hi Penny
The one that annoys me is stationary meaning at a standstill and stationery meaning writing paper.
The other thing that annoys me is people spell check but don’t read. A spell check will allow complete words like on when it should have been one, doe when it should have been does.
However, we are probably all guilty at some time.

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 9:48 AM

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2
Manjusha writes:

Quite and quiet

Quite means entirely. Quiet means peaceful, making little noise, free from trouble

You are quite right.
I would like to lead a quiet life.
A sick man needs a quiet room.

Price and prize
Price is the cost of something bought or sold. Prize is the award for a winner.

What is the price of that bag?
She got this bag as a prize.

Lose and loose
Lose – fail to win, have something taken away
Loose – free, not fastened

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 10:08 AM

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3
Tony writes:

How about whilst and learnt, are those words even necessary, can we do without them? Both of those words bug me whenever I see them in a sentence.

Tony

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 10:38 AM

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4
Tony writes:

How about those and these? did I use those/these words correctly in the sentence above?

Tony

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 10:42 AM

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5
Lars writes:

@Tony

Whilst and learnt are correct; they’re just unusual in American English. The British still use these and feel just as comfortable using them as you feel using while and learned. It’s just a different dialect.

@Penny

The same applies to towards. Using the s at the end is neither correct nor incorrect. It’s just a different dialect. Again, the British are more likely to use towards whereas Americans are more likely to use toward. But many people use them interchangeably depending on what sounds better in any particular context. And there’s nothing incorrect with that varied usage.

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM

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6
Malcolm writes:

“complimentary” (with an “i”) vs. “complementary” (with an “e”)

Complimentary (“i”) means “free” as in “Click here for your complimentary articles.” [Complimentary (“i”) can also mean “admiring” as in “Her comments were complimentary.”]

Complementary (“e”) means “completing” or “making whole” — think “complementary angle” or “complementary medicine”

P.S. It is redundant to use “complimentary gifts” — same for “free gifts”

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 1:44 PM

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7
Elena Neill writes:

How about already and all ready. All right and alright. You’re right, English is a complex language. Good ole Webster.

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 4:27 PM

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8
Lugene Brantley writes:

I dislike when I am writing an article and spell check wants to change a word – ex. ‘please don’t do that’ spell check wants don’t changed to doesn’t. that is absurd. I know you can say ignore once, but then I come along and it is changed to doesn’t. Also, when some one does a spell ckeck on my articles the same thing happens on different occasions.
When i present an article for publishing and this happens it looks like I don’t know what I am doing. I wish there was a way to correct this. Spell checkers make these mistakes a lot.

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 4:31 PM

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9
Tony writes:

Lugene

I use Whitesmoke software to help me correct my articles. It’s not perfect, but at least it gives you a choice.

BTW spell check said Whitesmoke is suppose to be two words…haha!

Tony

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 4:51 PM

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10
Manjusha writes:

Now that you have made a reference to those words (whilst and learnt) in a previous sentence, I think you should have used these instead of those.

This and these are used to talk about people and things which are close to the speaker. That and those are used to talk about people and things which are more distant or not present.

Comment provided May 18, 2011 at 10:17 PM

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11

What about woman and women? There are hundreds such if we search.

Comment provided May 19, 2011 at 7:30 PM

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12
Jim Peplinski writes:

Sale and Sell Most people say the correct word but when writing they are often used incorrect!
Example:
I want to sale my boat for $1000. Or I was able to sells my boat!

Very annoying to say the least!

Comment provided May 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM

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13
Holly Boyd writes:

Maybe it’s just an “Appalachian thing” but down here I keep hearing “them shoes. them kids. them dogs.” UG! Please just end it after “them” – it really is all you need!

Comment provided September 8, 2011 at 7:19 AM

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14
Tony Toledo writes:

woman is singular, while women is the plural form of woman

Comment provided November 10, 2011 at 1:56 AM

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15
Peter Ellis writes:

One that I still don’t fully get:

Practise and Practice – an ‘S’ or a ‘C’.

This may be a problem only for us using British English, as I believe both the verb and the noun are spelt the same – with a ‘C’ – in US English (though I’m sure there are lots of experts on this site than can correct me on this one).

So, for British English:

Practise (with an ‘S’) is the verb (‘I practised the piano today’)

Practice (with a ‘C’) is the noun (‘a doctor’s practice)

But, it’s not that I know for sure … I’m very shaky on this one, to tell the truth.

Comment provided December 11, 2011 at 1:00 AM

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16
carl mondello writes:

I dislike it whe people use “I” incorrectly. EG He have the gifts to him and I.

He said he was angry with Bob and I.

Comment provided January 27, 2012 at 5:49 PM

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17
Nadav writes:

Nice list. Here are my additions:

Loose vs Lose – “loose” means free or unchecked while to “lose” is to fail in something (like a match) or be deprived of something.
Example: If you mistakenly set your dog loose in the middle of the town you might lose some time searching for it.

Quite vs Quit vs Quiet – “quite” means absolutely or completely. To “quit” is to stop doing something (like quitting you job) or get out of something (for example quit a game) and “quiet” is another word for silence.
Example: It’s quiet right now but the debate John had with the boss a few minutes ago was quite intense. In the end John was so angry that he decided to quit the company and find a new job.

Comment provided May 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM

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18
Mehdi Zemzem writes:

All the lists are quite good, but for me there are three misused words which really make me crazy whenever I come across, especially while proofreading my students’ exam sheets: “You” vs. “Your” vs. “You’re”.
– “You” is a subject/personal pronoun as in ” You are a honest person.”
– “Your” is a possessive adjective. E.g. “This is your lunch.
– “You’re” is a contraction for “you are”. E.g. “You’re my best friend.”

I have a very interesting website about the most Notorious Confusables in English. You can check it out. It’s so useful.

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/notorious.htm

Comment provided May 25, 2012 at 1:30 PM

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19
JP writes:

TOWARD/TOWARDS

See http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/toward.html

These two words are interchangeable, but “toward” is more common in the US and “towards” in the UK.

Some people, probably influenced by “forwards,” write “torwards” instead of the correct “towards.”

Comment provided June 12, 2012 at 2:15 PM

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20
AKM Arshaduzzaman Tito writes:

Calendar/Calender

Calendar (with an “a”) that means chronological system, a printed table that shows all the days, weeks and months of the year.
Example: An office must have a desk calendar.

Calender (with an “e”) means a machine that is used to calender or level cloths by heating.
Example: It is a calender made in USA.

There are lots of confusing and double-meaning or different meaning words those are caused to make mistake in ordering a sentence.

Comment provided October 14, 2014 at 10:56 AM

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