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Commonly Misused Words

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This is a list of words that are often misused, misspelled, or confused. Be careful of these when editing your work!

Commonly Confused Words Edit

A-M

  • A/An (before a word beginning with a consonant/before a word beginning with a vowel): A doctor performed the surgery but then he caught an infection.
  • Bring/Take (to bear here/to bear there): I will take this dish to the picnic and bring it home if there is anything left.
  • Accept/Except (to take or receive/to exclude): I will accept all of your advice except the part about eating raw oysters every morning.
  • Affect/Effect (to influence/to cause): We must affect a change if we hope to have any effect on the world.
  • Allusion/Illusion (a casual reference/something that deceives): My allusion to Chaucer gave me the illusion of education.
  • Assure/Ensure/Insure (to know surely/to secure or guarantee/to guarantee against loss or harm): I assure you that I have ensured that the car is insured.
  • Bad/Badly (not good/in a defective or undesirable way): I felt bad that she had hurt herself so badly.
  • Breathe/Breath (to take in air/act of breathing in air): He could not breathe as he tried to catch his breath.
  • Cloth/Clothes/Clothe (fabric/garments/to cover with garments): I used several purple cloths to make the clothes I am clothed in.
  • Compliment/Complement (to give praise/to complete or make perfect): I complimented her on her dress, the shoes complemented her dress perfectly.
  • Comprise/Constitute (to include or contain/form or contribute to): Tin, copper and antimony constitute pewter, while bronze comprises copper and tin. Many chapters constitute a book, while a newspaper is comprised of many articles.
  • Did/Done (simple past tense/present perfect or past perfect tenses): We did everything we could even though some of us could have done more.
  • Farther/Further (actual physical distance/metaphorical distance or depth): It's not much further, but he is even farther down the road than I thought!
  • Faze/Phase (to be disturbed/stage in a process): This phase of my life did little to faze me.
  • Good/Well (modifies the noun/modifies the verb unless referring to sensation): That is a good song, I think they sang it very well. I feel good and I am well. Exceptions: Dinner smells good and I feel good today.
  • I.E./E.G. (that is/for example): We will be having a party tonight for All Hallow's Eve, i.e., Halloween. I love all the variety of things to do, e.g., dressing up, eating candy, telling spooky tales.
  • Infer/Imply (to derive by reasoning/to indicate without being explicitly stated): We inferred that he is angry yet his tone implied happiness.
  • It's/Its (it is or it has/possessive): It's obvious that the dog will not relinquish its bone.
  • Lie, lay, lain/Lay, laid, laid (to recline/to put or place): I lie on the bed. Yesterday, I lay on the bed. I have lain on the bed before. I lay out the clothes. Yesterday, I laid out the clothes. I have laid out the clothes before.
  • Less/Fewer (cannot be counted individually/can be counted numerically): I have less patience now but luckily there are fewer people here today.
  • Loose/Lose (not firmly attached/fail to win): The knot was loose which caused them to lose the dog.
  • I/Me (subject of a verb/object of a verb): Please come with Mary and me to the beach. I have towels.
  • Me/Myself (a direct or indirect object/used only when the subject is you) I gave a gift to myself rather than having him give to to me.

N-Z

  • Part/Depart (to separate/to go away): Mary Ellen and I parted ways when I departed for Corsica.
  • Quite/Quiet (rather/silent): It was quite impressive for her to be quiet the entire day.
  • Rise/Raise (intransitive verb, doesn't require an object/transitive verb, require an object): The sun will rise every morning and she will raise the little girl up to see.
  • Raise/Raze (To rise up/destroyy: As the balloon raised me into the air, I could see the razed remains of the city below.
  • Seen/Saw (past participle of see/past tense of see/cutting tool): No one had seen him at the party but she saw him last night.
  • Something/Anything (indeterminate or unspecified thing/any object, occurrence, or matter): We all remembered something of about her but still asked if there was anything she'd like to say.
  • Stationary/Stationery (Unmoving/paper): I made sure I had a stationary place to write on my stationery.
  • Sympathy/Empathy (implies a degree of equal feeling/the ability to feel and understand another's emotions): The doctor felt sympathy for our pain but it was the support group that could really empathize with us.
  • That/Which (used with essential clauses/used with non-essential clauses): He took his cat, which is so cute, to his apartment that has no rules against it.
  • Then/Than (a time/opposed to): Then I decided that I'd rather die than read another word of Eye of Argon.
  • To/Too (indicates direction/as well): It was her turn to do something, too.
  • Toward/Towards (to obtain/direction): I walked towards the car as we worked toward a common goal.
  • They're/Their/There (they are/possessive/at that point or place): They're wondering why their undergarments are all strung up on the flagpole over there.
  • Where/Were (a place/past tense of be): They were ready to go but they didn't know where.
  • Who/Whom (the subject of the verb/the object form of a pronoun): I know who can't help so whom should I ask?
  • Whose/Who's (possessive/who is or who has): Whose socks are in the hallway? And please see who's at the door.
  • Your/You're (possessive/you are): You're on this wiki to improve your writing.

Commonly Misused Words Edit

  • Grammar: Refers to the construction of a sentence, not the spelling of the words. Do not instruct people to "use grammar!" when what you really mean is "spell your words properly!"
  • Media: Media is the plural of medium, as in TV is a medium of communication. Thus the common usage of "The media is" is, in fact incorrect even when used by the media themselves. The correct usage is "The media are". As for the plural of "Medium" in reference to a psychic, it is mediums.
  • Ponderous: Means "heavy, slow and clumsy" or "dull," not "thoughtful" or "pondering."
  • Prodigal: Means free-spending, not father-abandoning. The prodigal son spent all of his money freely and wound up in a pigsty with nothing to eat. Running away from his father makes him a runaway son, not a prodigal. So when people say 'The prodigal returns!' they're sarcastically quoting (or paraphrasing) the Bible, not actually calling the character a prodigal. Beware of this in a fantasy setting where the Bible doesn't exist!
  • Random: characterizing a process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal probability of being chosen. It does not mean 'doing something for no reason in an attempt to be funny.'
  • Sentience: Means 'able to feel pain' or 'able to feel basic emotions.' It does not mean 'self-aware.' 'Sapience' means self-aware.

Commonly Misspelled Words Edit

  • A lot is two words.
  • So is all right.
  • Believe it's not 'be-live', and remember that I comes before E, except after C, or in things that say "ay" as in neighbor and weigh.
  • Definitely is spelled with an I after the N, not an A.
  • Fiery is spelled with the E before the R.
  • Grammar is spelled with an A before the R, not E. It also has two M's.
  • Random has no 'e' in it.
  • Weird breaks the I before E rule. So it's 'weird' not 'wierd'. A weird scenario, isn't it?

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