Commonly Misused Words – Part 1

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

UPDATE: Here’s another source: The Chicago Manual of Style says, “The traditional distinction is to use farther for a physical distance {we drove farther north to see the autumn foliage} and further for a figurative distance {let’s examine this further} {look no further}.”

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)

UPDATE: Here’s what The Chicago Manual of Style says: “Whatever is nauseous induces a feeling of nausea–it makes us feel sick to our stomachs. To feel sick is to be nauseated. The use of nauseous to mean nauseated may be too common to be called error anymore, but strictly speaking is poor usage. Because of the ambiguity in nauseous, the wisest course may be to stick to the participal adjectives nauseated and nauseating.”

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?

Lynnette Labelle