Monday, March 15, 2010

Commonly Misused Words

Every day, I come across a blog, website, newspaper article, or manuscript that makes me cringe because the writer confused one word for another. Check out the list below to see if you’re guilty of the same errors.

1. accept: to receive willingly
    except: to exclude

2. advice: suggestion
    advise: verb meaning “to give advice”

3. affect: verb meaning “to influence”
    effect: result

4. all ready: prepared
    already: previously

5. choose: to pick (present)
    chose: to pick (past)

6. ensure: to make certain
    insure: to get insurance on something; to guarantee protection

7. farther: at a greater distance
    further: in addition to

8. lets: allows
    let’s: contraction of “let us”

9. loose: opposite of tight
    lose: opposite of find or win

10. nauseated: feeling sick to one’s stomach
      nauseous: causing nausea (like from a smell for example)

11. their: possessive of “they”
      there: in or at that place
      they’re: contraction of “they are”

12. who’s: contraction of “who is” or “who has”
      whose: possessive form, shows ownership

Another very common error is not knowing when to use “then” and “than”. However, that rule isn't the easiest to explain. Simply reading the definitions will make many people scratch their heads. Instead, I’ll use examples to illustrate how to properly use these two words.

Then: I will then go see Tommy. She read a book and then fell asleep. He heard a noise, but then realized it was only the wind.

Than: More than that, he wanted to win. Rather than get up, he instructed Bobby to bring him an apple. Other than the TV and DVR, nothing else was missing.

Are you guilty of making any of these mistakes? Which ones? What other word choice errors have you seen?


  1. they drive me crazy, too. but i have to say i'm guilty of confusing nauseous and nauseated.

  2. I've seen a few, but I'm afraid I do it too. I always get "effect" and "affect" mixed up. Grr!

  3. I'm guilty of not double checking. I know the rules and proper use, but sometimes my fingers fly faster than my mind and I make the mistakes. I usually catch them as I read it over. This is such a nice explanation of it though. Very easy to understand. I can see middle school teachers using this as a poster on their class room walls. :)

  4. It's so easy to get words mixed up when you are in a hurry. It's annoying, but I've done it myself.

  5. The nauseous/nauseated one got me. Lately, I've seen people use the word, "cord," instead of "chorde," as in "strike a chorde."

  6. I tend to use 'all ready' in all places!

  7. I'm sure I've made the mistakes inadvertantly! I've never been completely sure of alright or all right. Any thoughts?

  8. Good list. Though I know the rules, I still slip up, especially with already and all ready.

  9. I'll mess up if I'm in a hurry. Good check list.

  10. the nausea one. And I'm afraid I'll keep making the mistake, sounds better to say "I'm nauseous" than "I'm nauseated."

  11. I'm proud to say my only crime on this list is accept and except. I can never keep those two straight!

    But yeah...I cringe when I see some of the really easy ones misused- they're, their, and there is one of the ones that irritates me the most!!

  12. These are great. I'm adding these to my "keep" list.

  13. Lynnette, you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you sure can't take the teaching out of the teacher! I spend my days looking at errors that are much more glaring than's and its, for example.
    I teach sixth graders, and so many of them just fall back into the same trap over and over again! As for me...well, probably nauseous and nauseated. Thankfully, I don't use them all that often!

  14. This stuff gets me, too. I cringe! And I try so, so hard not to make the errors myself. :)

  15. I'm good about avoiding most of those, but I really have to pay attention when using nauseated/nauseous. I learned the wrong usuage as a child, with my mom often saying, "Are you feeling nauseous?", and it's difficult to unlearn. Of course, she could have been asking if I felt like I was making everyone around me sick :)

  16. "Lose" versus "loose" is my biggest pet peeve ever when I read other people's writing. I'm guilty of messing up my "whom"s, and I really have to think about "effect" and "affect" before I type them.

  17. Glad to see I'm not the only one who cringes when they see these errors. There are others, of course. I could go on and on. LOL

    Gael: I was a teacher, too, so I totally get what you're saying.

    Jody: I emailed you about all right and alright.

    Lynnette Labelle

  18. I'm probably guilty of number 10. My pet peeve is number 9. I used to have a boss that switched those constantly--drove me bonkers. Then a co-worker started doing it as well. Finally, I looked it up because I was like--am I the one who's wrong? Nope.

  19. Who: The subject of a sentence or phrase. "Who is coming to dinner tonight?"

    Whom: The object of a sentence or phrase. "Whom did you invite for dinner tonight?"

  20. Two more:

    Theirs: plural possessive pronoun. "A friend of theirs is ill."

    There's: Contraction of "there is"

    Using "There's" when referring to plural objects drives me nuts and EVERYONE DOES IT! So much that I even find myself doing it.

    "There's three cups already on the table." ARGH! "There ARE three cups already on the table," not "There IS three cups already on the table."

    The other one is misuse of "I" and "me" when referring to more than one person. People seem to think that it is never appropriate to say "Jane and me." So they use "Jane and I" even when it is the object of the verb.

    "Jane and I had dinner with Paul." is correct, because "I" is part of the subject of the sentence.

    "Paul had dinner with Jane and I" is incorrect, because "Jane and I" is now the object of the preposition "with."

    The correct way to say it is, "Paul had dinner with Jane and me."

    The way to check is to take out the other person's name. Would you say, "Paul had dinner with I?" No.

  21. Dadgumit, I'm the worst of all. My grammer sucks. But, my ideas are awsome. I just let the idea come to life and run as fast as I can to let it have its head. Do I care about all my mistakes? Yes I do, but thats why I need an editor. Not all of us are English Majors. Some are just good ole everyday dreamers.

  22. Fun list!!! I get tense when people misuse affect and effect, really tricky when working in the psychological realm.

    LOVE this blog! Glad Susan sent me over!

    If you have time, stop by my place today. I posted late but really want to share a poem by Mary Oliver called, "Lead" in light of the Gulf oil spill.

    On a brighter note, Happy Weekend!