Top Misused Words Part IV

Freight Night – All of Your Fears Shipped First Class!

Welcome back for another round of the top misused words in the English language, but first – let’s talk proofreading.

It’s not the most glamorous part of article writing, but having a thoroughly proofread (and appropriately edited) article can make you look glamorous – or at least maintain your credibility. Keep your readers positively focused on you, instead of negatively focused on errors, by proofreading your articles…

…and don’t forget these 5 most misused words in the English language:

Fright vs. Freight

fright – A sudden intense feeling of fear; an experience that causes someone to feel fear suddenly.

Incorrect: Horror movies give me a freight!
Correct: Horror movies give me a fright!

freight – Goods transported (or to transport goods) in bulk by truck, train, ship, or aircraft.

Incorrect: That ship carries fright rather than passengers.
Correct: That ship carries freight rather than passengers.

Bought vs. Brought

bought – Obtain in exchange for payment; to purchase.

Incorrect: I brought a new phone with my last paycheck.
Correct: I bought a new phone with my last paycheck.

brought – To come to a place with (someone or something); to cause (someone or something) to come to a place.

Incorrect: I bought my friend Jackie to the party.
Correct: I brought my friend Jackie to the party.

Personal vs. Personnel

personal – Of, affecting, or belonging to a particular person; an advertisement.

Incorrect: Take care of your body with these personnel hygiene tips!
Correct: Take care of your body with these personal hygiene tips!

personnel – Staff, people employed in an organization.

Incorrect: Use these methods when recruiting new personal into your organization.
Correct: Use these methods when recruiting new personnel into your organization.

Versus vs. Verses

versus – Against; as opposed to; in contrast to.

Incorrect: In a hypothetical fight of a gorilla verses a shark, I’d put money on the gorilla.
Correct: In a hypothetical fight of a gorilla versus a shark, I’d put money on the gorilla.

verses – Plural form of verse; writing arranged with a rhythm; a group of lines that form a unit of a poem or song, a stanza.

Incorrect: The poem’s versus didn’t contain a rhyming scheme.
Correct: The poem’s verses didn’t contain a rhyming scheme.

Adapt vs. Adopt

adapt – To make something suitable for a new use or purpose; to modify; to adjust to new conditions; to alter.

Incorrect: The institution must change and therefore adopt to new conditions.
Correct: The institution must change and therefore adapt to new conditions.

adopt – To legally take a child (or pet) and raise it as one’s own; to take up an idea or method; to take on or assume.

Incorrect: “Adapt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Correct: “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We will have another grammar and spelling tips series coming up in the next few weeks, so stop by the Blog for the latest and greatest tips to error free articles. Remember: Prepare your articles with thorough proofreading to keep your audience focused on your message and your content, rather than blunders that could have been avoided!

Did you miss our last edition of Top Misused Words? Check it out here!


Don writes:

Misused words that bother me are “yin and yang,” which many people write as “ying and yang.”

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 10:43 AM


Leslie writes:

That is a very good one, so true!


Carl S writes:

I read some text today where the author wanted to write that something was “admirable” but instead it was written “admiral”

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 11:09 AM


CH James writes:

I’d like to offer up for inclusion Liable versus Libel, which I find particularly distressing to see, because it’s the result of nothing more than a loose grasp on the language and not a simple typing or spelling error.

Liable (adj) is obligation or responsibility, while libel (noun) is a written defamatory statement or claim.

Additionally, liable is a three syllable word, while libel is only two, so the excuse that they “sound the same” shouldn’t fly either!

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 12:37 PM


Leslie writes:

This is a little different, but we have a good friend named Brian who a few years ago, had brain surgury. I don’t know how many times I emailed him, “Dear Brain”.

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 12:39 PM


Stephen Monday writes:

Proofing and editing are two of the most important things to have done when you want:

credibility. believability, brevity, and personable copy.

Professionally crafted messages are the ones who get read (in their entirety.

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 1:23 PM


tcbernardo writes:

Stephen, you didn’t proofread your comment very well; it should have been a comma (,) after “credibility,” instead of a period.


Kieran Gracie writes:

And I think that ‘who’ should have been ‘which’!


Michael writes:

Shall we add ‘closing the parentheses’, just to be sure we’ve covered everything?


Jodi Granok writes:

The pairing I see misused the most is effect and affect.

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM


Sergio Felix writes:

Hey Penny,

I don’t have any problems with these words however, I didn’t know the meaning of ‘freight’.

Thank you! ;-)


Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 2:40 PM


Dexter Nelson writes:

Or how about the proper use of words. I keep hearing people say “thank you for the invite,” or “I will send you an invite,” etc.

Invite is a verb meaning to make a polite, formal, or friendly request to someone to go somewhere or to do something.

The noun is “invitation” as in thank you for the invitation, or I will send an invitation.

That’s definitely a pet peeve!

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 3:04 PM


tcbernardo writes:

Now that Dexter has brought it up, will somebody discuss this more fully? I’ve come to accept invite as a noun, in much the same way I’ve accepted meet as a noun, too. Thanks.


Michael writes:

I’d put ‘invite’ and ‘invitation’ down to American English and British English.

Hadn’t thought of it before, but it’s a fab ‘excuse’, and by the time someone works out you made it up you’re long gone. :-)



I will go along with that statement. the word “colour” is spelt differently on american soil. And that’s just for starters!


Hsegan writes:

I have one more word which people often spell,

Programme(British) Vs Program(American)


Samuel Bani Dauda writes:

I learned a lot from these Top misused Words; The words that use to confuse me a times is advice/advise if you can throw more light on that. Thanks

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 3:36 PM


Samuel –

“Advice” is a noun. For example: You give somebody advice. “Advise” is a verb. For example: You advise somebody on the proper course of action.

– Marc


Michael writes:

I learned at school you can ‘c’ a noun, but you can’t see a verb. :-) Fairly sure it works in most cases … I still use it now and then today. (I actually use it ocassionally, but I can’t spell that word.)


Randall Magwood writes:

Rarely does my writing contain misused words. But occasionally, I may use the words “to” and “too” in the wrong context of my writing. Another mishap that is common with me is the use of the words “no” and “know”.

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 4:30 PM


Bonnie Chomica writes:

I love these articles, because I’m an editor at heart with a red pencil and everything:)

What I find helps the most is reading your work out loud. By skimming over your writing, your brain often misses things, and spell and grammar check are not always accurate. Read it out loud and you’ll not only find your errors easier, you might improve the ‘sound’ of your writing as well.

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 7:29 PM


Jean writes:

The two that irritate me most are
your vs you’re

and their, they’re and there

I shake my head and wonder whether people learn grammar aby more in school. These have such different meanings

Comment provided April 18, 2012 at 11:33 PM


John writes:

Hi Penny, thanks for another spelling blunder.

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 12:17 AM


Phil writes:

Frankly your last couple of mis-used words tips have fallen into the idiot category… if anyone mis-uses those I feel sorry for their level of education (or lack thereof). Just my humble opinion…

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 3:32 AM


Emily Sandstrom writes:

Amen. See my remark just under this. Did anyone go there? That is a fabulous exercise. Actually, it is a test for proofreaders of court transcripts.


Emily Sandstrom writes: Now THIS is a test on word usage worthy of people who call themselves authors.

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 4:33 AM


Jim Dickens writes:

One of the most common confused pairs is principal and principle especially since the first one has a double meaning. Principal is the adjective that says what the main point or the main person is such as “principal article” Principle is a noun depicting a tenet or quality. Principal can also be a noun when it is talking about the principal in a school.

Boy, I hope I got that right

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM


Michael writes:

This ‘tips’ series is one of the few ‘information emails’ I actually bother to read. (I SO want to put ‘junk mail’ … I know I shouldn’t!)

I’m very conceited about my grammar and my vocabulary, and whilst I will admit to the odd typo now and then, would not think it possible for me to actually make an error.

I suspect I really read this series just to laugh at the silly mistakes others make, or even to spot a pair of words and think, ‘no, really? Surely that’s made up … people can’t mix those two up!’

Imagine my horror then when I found something I’m guilty of myself! Not just once or twice either, but consistently for as long as I can remember.

Thanks everso – learned two things – it’s ‘versus’ not ‘verses’, and I should be quite a bit humbler!

(-: Michael :-)

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 11:47 AM


Michael writes:

… and another thing … as it’s kinda my ‘pet peeve’.

‘Can’ and ‘may’.

Notsomuch ‘accidentally’ misused, but almost deliberately so by people who think it’s refined or posh to say ‘may’ instead of ‘can’.

‘Can’ = to be able to
‘May’ = to be allowed to

Even WordPress website comments fall into this trap – “You may use the following HTML” May I? How kind. So there’s other kinds of HTML which I CAN use which will work too, but I’m not allowed to?

I know, I know … I should get out more.

(-: Michael :-)

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 12:02 PM


Leslie writes:

This is all very funny, the comments are so great and everyone so engaged! I see mistakes with inquire and enquire…if you want to look into something, I always said inquiry. If someone was asking, I always said thanks for your inquiry. What’s right? How is enquire used?
Leslie Lyon

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 8:43 PM


Kieran Gracie writes:

I have always thought that ‘enquire’ was the verb and ‘inquiry’ the noun. “He enquired about the Inquiry”. I don’t think there is a verb ‘inquire’. This is using British English, however, since I notice that my (American English) spellcheck doesn’t like ‘enquire’ at all! Actually, I notice that it doesn’t like ‘spellcheck’ either!


Leslie –

I did a little research and found the best explanation of the difference between inquire and enquire on

In North America, enquire is just another spelling for inquire. (Inquire tends to be used more often.) According to both the Canadian and American Oxford dictionaries, either word can be used to “ask a question” or to “seek information formally.”

Examples (North American):
– He inquired about her health.
– She enquired my name.
– You should inquire into the accident.

In British English, there is a difference between enquiry and inquiry. If you enquire about someone or something, you ask about them.

Examples (British style):
– He enquired about her health.
– She enquired as to whether we were going to the meeting.
– In Britain, inquiry is used to indicate official investigations.

Examples (British style):
– Are the police going to inquire into the accident?
– We need to set up a commission to inquire into politicians’ pensions.

However, many British grammar books now say that if you can’t decide between the two words, go with inquire.

I hope this clears it up for you!

– Marc


Werner writes:

Hi Penny thanks for another batch of misspelled words. These words are common and one can easily do a mistake while using these. So this would remind us to memorize these.

Comment provided April 19, 2012 at 9:34 PM


Abdullah Maricar writes:


What does ‘half as much again’ or ‘half again as much’ (US) really mean?

‘In 2011, fossil fuel emissions jumped about 6%, and over the past 20 years these emissions have risen HALF AGAIN AS MUCH’ – Professor Juan Cole

Is it 50% or 150% (one and a half times) more?
I would appreciate if you could explain.

Thanks in advance

Comment provided April 23, 2012 at 3:51 AM


Abdullah –

In the U.S., “half again as much” means 150% of the original amount. So if you said, “I have 10 apples, but I’d prefer to have half again as much,” you would be saying that you want 15 apples.

– Marc


Abdullah Maricar writes:

Hi Marc

Thanks for answering my question.



Michael writes:

I’m so glad you answered that! I was going to say he must have mis-spoken. In the UK it’s “half as much again”.

Oscar was right. Two nations divided by a common language. :-)

Comment provided April 23, 2012 at 3:48 PM



On reading the above comments, what language format is used for determining the grammar and spelling criteria on is it American English or British English? and could this make the difference in an article being published or not?

Comment provided June 13, 2012 at 7:53 AM


George –

We accept both American and British English and will review and approve articles without regard to which was used. However, it is in your best interest to use the version that is appropriate for your target audience.

It’s also important that you stay consistent throughout any given article. In other words, you don’t want to switch between American and British English within one article. This can be confusing to your reader and damaging to your credibility as an Expert Author.

– Marc


Alain writes:

I have been doing all these exercises and I find that my vocabulary continues to improve. As English is not my first language, I find these guides so useful. I like to thank EzineArticles for making all this information available.

Comment provided January 15, 2013 at 6:55 AM


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