Monday, September 12, 2011

Wrong Word Usage - Part 4

It’s been a while since we’ve looked at some mistakes I see in manuscripts. As a freelance editor, I anticipate these types of errors. However, an agent or publisher expects the writer to have a polished manuscript, so it’s best to learn what mistakes to avoid. Today, we’re going to study: faze/phase, fearful/fearsome, flair/flare, fowl/foul, and formally/formerly. Do you know how to use these words correctly? Let’s see…

Faze/Phase: “Faze” means to disturb the composure of. I love the example used in the online version of Merriam-Webster. “You’ll never succeed as a writer if you let a little bit of criticism faze you.” “Phase” means to adjust so as to be in a synchronized condition, or to introduce in stages. For example, someone may go through a phase where they only eat cheese pizzas. Or, a company might decide to phase out the older model and replace it with a new one.

Fearful/Fearsome: To be “fearful” is to be scared. To be “fearsome” is to cause fear in others.

Flair/Flare: “Flair” is a talent or skill. She has a flair for style. “Flare”, the noun, is a fire or light used to signal or attract attention. “Flare”, the verb, means to burn with an unsteady flame, to become suddenly excited or angry like when a temper flares, or to spread outward like the bottoms of certain jeans.

Fowl/Foul: A chicken is a fowl, as are all birds. “Foul”, the adjective, is offensive to the senses like a foul odor. Or it can be displeasing in other ways like foul language. “Foul”, the noun, is an infringement of the rules in a game or sport like a foul ball.

Formally/Formerly: If something is done in a formal matter, it’s done “formally.” If someone previously behaved differently, they did so “formerly” or at a previous time.

Which words on this list have you struggled with or misused?

Lynnette Labelle


  1. Thanks for sharing this! These are words you typically don't think about when considering wrong word usage.

    Alyssa Ast

  2. I'm pretty good on these but I do have my problem words. Effect/Affect always gets me.

  3. Pretty good with those examples, but Effect/Affect is my HUGEST misuse. I never ever know...and even when I try to look it up, I am usually still confused!! LOL! I have lots of trouble with lay/lie/laid/ so bad. I avoid the word at all costs.

  4. Ditto to everything Stephanie said. Sometimes I find a different word when I can't figure out which one I really want.

  5. Alyssa: I'm glad you liked the list.

    LD, Stephanie, and Wendy: If I haven't already covered affect and effect, I'll try to get to those next time.

    Lynnette Labelle