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More Commonly Misused Words

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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glorybee
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More Commonly Misused Words

Postby glorybee » Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:36 am

Several times a year, I work online, scoring student essays for state proficiency tests. In addition, I do a fair amount of freelance editing, and these two jobs expose me to a lot of common writing errors. This short lesson will cover a few of those errors that I’ve encountered several times recently. I may have covered some of these in the past, but I think they bear repeating. I doubt that any of you make all of these mistakes (and some of you may make none of them), but you may find one or two in here that has tripped you up in the past.

1. The past tense of drown—it’s not drownded, but drowned.

Example: Sam drowned his sorrows in drink—at least he attempted to—but skim milk wasn’t particularly effective for the job.

2. Lightning/lightening—notice the ‘e’ in the middle of the second word? The first one—lightning—is that flash of light that accompanies thunder. The second one has a few meanings, and they’re all associated with the verb ‘to lighten.’ You might write about the lightening of a load, or that phase in late pregnancy when the baby moves into birthing position.

Example: During last night’s storm, lightning caused the power to go out right in the middle of Top Chef.

Jordan is lightening her carry-on baggage so she doesn’t have to pay a fine; she’s pitching her unabridged dictionary.

3. Apart/a part—These words are close to being exact opposites, and when they’re used incorrectly, often the sentence means something entirely different from what the writer intended.
The word apart means ‘separate from,’ while the phrase a part means ‘a component.’

Example: I love playing Tiddlywinks, so it’s nice to be a part of the Tiddlywinks Fan Club.

My love of Tiddlywinks, sadly, keeps me apart from my family, as they all prefer playing Candy Land.

4. Everyday/every day—When you use everyday (one word), you’re writing about something that is usual, common, ordinary. When you use every day (the two-word phrase), you’re writing about something that happens each 24-hour period.

Example: The queen doesn’t come to visit every day, so I decided it wasn’t appropriate to wear my everyday jeans. I wore the fancy jeans with the bling on the pockets.

5. Versus—This word means ‘against’. It’s does not mean ‘instead of.’

Wrong: I decided to have a piece of pumpkin pie versus a snickerdoodle.

Right: In the epic battle of pie versus cookie, the pie won.

In addition, I frequently see people try to use versus as a verb, usually totally mangling the word in the process. As a result, I see things like this:

Really, Really Wrong: We’re going to verse the Lions in tonight’s game.

6. Eager/anxious—While both of these words convey a sense of feelings about a future event, the feelings are quite different: if I am eager for something, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to it. If I’m anxious about an event, I’m dreading it, or I’m nervous about it.

Example: I’m eager to meet Alton Brown at his book signing, but I’m anxious that I might say something silly.

7. Rather/whether/weather—Don’t write (or say) 'rather or not.’ It’s ‘whether or not.’ The word rather indicates preference, so it’s close in meaning to whether, but they’re not used in quite the same way.

Example: I’d rather wear 6-inch heels than flip-flops.

I don’t care whether you wear flip-flops or not, but I wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

Would you rather the weather be too hot, or too cold?

8. Okay—If you’ve played Scrabble at all, you know that ok is not a word. Use okay, not just in Scrabble, but in your writing.

9. Alot—This is not a word. Don’t use it, ever. Not at all. Never. Use a lot (two words). Better still, find a more interesting word or phrase to convey the meaning of ‘a lot’-ness.

10. Reckless—This is the word you almost certainly want when you’re writing about behavior that’s without thought, hasty, disregarding of consequences. I see ‘wreckless’ quite a bit, probably because reckless behavior often leads to wrecks.

11. Callus/callous—A callus is that thickened area of skin you get in places that get used frequently: guitar players, for example, get calluses on their fingers. Callous refers to an attitude or personality characteristic. A calloused person is unfeeling, or their feelings toward something or someone may be hardened—thus the confusion with the other kind of callus.

12. Allowed/aloud—The past tense of allow is allowed. The other word—aloud¬—sounds identical, but carries a meaning similar to ‘audible.’

Example: It is not allowed to read aloud in the library.

13. Passed/past—If something happened a while ago, it happened in the past, even though time has passed since then.

Are any of these new to you? Did you find any errors that you’ve made in the past? Are there similar errors you often see? (Don’t mention homophones of there, its, too, and your—but I’m interested in others, like the ones here, that could trip up even sophisticated writers.)
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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby JudySauer » Sat Jun 25, 2016 12:24 pm

Great lesson Jan. I have a couple of pet peeves that I see used a lot.

1. Two, Too, To
There are two of them.
Timmy is coming with us, too.
Suzie went to the library.

People forget the second "o" when meaning "too" so frequently, it makes my skin crawl.

2, Their, There, They're
Their house is on the left.
I have been there.
They're on their way.
Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance. -Jude 2 NIV

Judy Sauer
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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby oursilverstrands » Wed Jun 29, 2016 2:34 pm

Jan wrote:but I’m interested in others, like the ones here, that could trip up even sophisticated writers.)


What about alright and all right? Not sure if this fits the category, but I have been known to fall prey to error on occasion; I am not saying I'm a "sophisticated" writer. :D
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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby glorybee » Wed Jun 29, 2016 2:43 pm

lish1936 wrote:What about alright and all right? Not sure if this fits the category, but I have been known to fall prey to error on occasion; I am not saying I'm a "sophisticated" writer. :D
Lillian


Hi, Lillian! Haven't seen you in a while!

I didn't include 'alright' and 'all right' because they are a good example of our ever-changing language. While in the past (and for some purists, even now), 'alright' was always considered wrong, it's gradually becoming accepted, particularly in less formal usage.

My general suggestion would be this: 'all right' would be the safe way to go. If you're writing informally (social media or email, for example), you could use 'alright.' But if in doubt, go with the two-word version.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby oursilverstrands » Wed Jun 29, 2016 3:08 pm

Thanks, Jan. I didn't realize they could both be acceptable, but one was preferable. Yes, I've been missing in action. Health issues and too many birthdays behind me are the main reasons. :)

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby hwnj » Mon Jul 04, 2016 4:28 pm

Then versus than...
Holly

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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby hwnj » Wed Jul 06, 2016 9:28 pm

And sit versus set...
Holly

"There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." Edith Wharton

'It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.'

"In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm." Daily Encouragement Net (Stephen & Brooksyne Weber)

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Re: More Commonly Misused Words

Postby oursilverstrands » Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:04 pm

Full disclosure. :D The following was retrieved from a blog e-mail I received today.

irregardless/regardless

appraise/apprise

flaunt/flout

I could care less/I couldn't care less

But these are originals: peek/peak; insure/ensure


Lillian
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60

Fortunate 500


I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty


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