Monday, August 8, 2011

Wrong Word Usage Part 1

Today is the first in a series of lessons on correct word usage. I’ll post one lesson a week. The words we’re going to look at today are: backward/backwards, awhile/a while, ahold/hold, allowed/aloud, and altogether/all together. Do you know how to correctly use these words? Let’s see…

Backward/Backwards: If used as an adverb, both will work. For example, “He put his hat on backward.” Or, “He put his hat on backwards.” If you’re using the word as an adjective, the only correct usage is “backward.” For example, “She did a jump and a backward turn to complete the move.” When in doubt, use “backward.”

Awhile/A While: The adverb “awhile” means “for a time.” For example, “Stay awhile.” When “while” is the object of a prepositional phrase, “while” must be separated from “a”. For example, “Can I borrow your car for a while?” Here’s a trick. Remove the preposition from that sentence and you can use “awhile.” “Can I borrow your car awhile?”

Ahold/Hold: So many people say, “I’ll try to get ahold of him later.” However, that’s incorrect. Technically, the only correct way of saying this is, “I’ll try to get hold of him later.” Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Allowed/Aloud: When you were in school, you may have been “allowed” to read “aloud.” “Allowed” means “permitted”, while “aloud” means “out loud”.

Altogether/All Together: The adverb “altogether” means “completely” or “entirely.” For example, “It stopped raining altogether.” “All together” means “in a group.” For example, “The kids were placed all together at the children’s table.”

How did you do? Are there any words that trip you up? I have to admit “ahold/hold” is one I have to watch. When you learn something wrong, it’s hard to correct. I find being aware of the mistake will at least make you search it out and correct it, even if you wrote it wrong in your draft.

For those of you who missed the post, I’m teaching the class Hook, Line, and Sinker, How to Hook Readers and Reel Them In this September. The class is filling up, so register today. For more information on the class, click here.

Lynnette Labelle


  1. I didn't even know about the ahold/hold rule--thanks for teaching me something new today!

  2. Thank you for the reminders.

  3. These are great. I have had some confusion over backward/backwards in the past... I like your tip--when in doubt, use backward.

  4. This is one of my main suspects, however, I am glad to have the most amazing editor to give me helpful hints.

  5. There are always words out there I think just about any writer gets tripped up on. Thanks for the refresher!

  6. Great post. The one I trip over the most is further/farther.

  7. Elle, 5kidswdisabilities, Mary Mary: You're welcome. :)

    Valerie: Thanks!

    Katie: Glad I could help.

    Anonymous: Keisha, is that you? LOL

    DawnB: I just might cover those next. ;)

    Lynnette Labelle