Wrong Words vs. Right Words


So you weren’t paying attention in high school English class? I know, it was boring. Besides, we all had social lives to manage. But that lapse might cost you today in lost opportunities for employment or career advancement. Despite rapidly improving AI, spell and grammar checking, and other aids, errors creep into everyone’s writing. And some of them can mark you as an ignoramus. Not good when you’re trying to impress your boss or a client.

Anyone who writes hastily, such as beleaguered office workers responding to scores of email messages each day, often slip on wrong-word ice. Your English teacher surely knew this, but you were physiologically incapable of thinking about anything beyond the next 20 minutes. As a public service, therefore, I’m reincarnating your poor teacher to supply a list of commonly misused words along with their corrected usage. Bear in mind that this is a blog: the list, therefore, is not exhaustive.

Affect vs. Effect (verb)


Affect vs. Effect (noun)

Affect = changing or influencing something
Effect = causing something to happenAffect = feeling, emotion
Effect = result of a cause
Criterion vs. Criteria Criterion = singular (one) standard
Criteria = plural (many) standards
Disinterested vs. Uninterested Disinterested = unbiased, fair, uninvolved
Uninterested = not interested in or attracted to
Ensure vs. Insure Ensure = make sure
Insure = have or provide insurance
Farther vs. Further Farther = physical distance
Further = figurative distance as in addition to . . .
Its vs. It’s Its = it owns or possesses something
It’s = “It is . . .” (Not possessive of “it”)
(Its’ = no such word; it’s never correct)
Principal vs. Principle Principal = first, or most important; also money that is not interest
Principle = fundamental rule or guideline
Proceed vs. Precede Proceed = to continue or begin
Precede = to come before
There vs. Their vs. They’re There = location other than here
Their = they own or possess something
They’re = “They are . . .”
Whose vs. Who’s Whose = who owns or possesses something, as in “whose cat . . .”
Who’s = “Who is . . .”
Your vs. You’re Your = you own or possess something
You’re = “You are . . .”

An interesting list of 51 misused words or expressions can be found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12026653/The-51-most-commonly-misused-words-and-phrases-do-you-get-these-wrong.html.

As Hemingway quipped, “getting the words right” is key to writing success.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: