Fix How You Use These Commonly Misused Words

Jun 15, 2015

Fix How You Use These Commonly Misused Words

Put your smarty-pants bow tie on and start fixing how you use these commonly misused words.

There’s those words that you know and can use comfortably, and there’s those words that you know of but generally avoid using in places where someone might call your bluff and question the usage of the word. AND THEN…there’s those words that you think you know and are using comfortably, but in actuality…you’re using them incorrectly.

We’re here to fix this third type of word usage today. These commonly misused words are so commonly misused that you’ll look a lot smarter when you’re the only one using them correctly. So, for today, you have one mission: to fix how you use these commonly misused words. 

Fix How You Use These Commonly Misused Words

Accept vs. Except

Sometimes we rattle off these two words so quickly that they end up sounding the same. They mean different things, though. Notice the difference in this sentence: “I’d love to accept the invitation to your party on Wednesday, except I have to work.”

Accept = receive willingly. Except = exclusion.

Affect vs. Effect

We’ve mentioned this one before, but I don’t think I’ve ever confessed…I really struggle with this one. I have to check over and over again to make sure that I used the right word. And, when I’m proofreading, I have to pause and think about the usage every. single. time. It just doesn’t come naturally – yet. I’m working on it, and if this is your trouble area, you can, too. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Affect is almost always used as a verb, meaning to influence something or someone. Effect is almost always used a noun, meaning the result of something. However, you will sometimes see effect as a verb, meaning to accomplish something. Here’s an example: “The politician wanted to effect change during her career.”

But, if you need a mostly reliable quick-guide, just remember that affect = verb and effect = noun.

Lie vs. Lay

Here’s the quick-guide to the confusing difference between lie as in “recline” and lay as in “recline.” Lay requires a direct object. So, if you can do it yourself (lie down), it’s lie. If reclining requires an object, “Lay the napkin next to the cutlery,” then it’s lay.

Borrow vs. Lend

Borrow and lend are used interchangeably, but they really can’t be. Use borrow when you are the one wanting to use/take something that belongs to someone else with the intention of giving it back. When you are the person that has an item that someone wants to use/take with the intention of giving it back, you are lending the item.

Here’s an example: “I let my son borrow my car, but it made me nervous to lend it to him.”

Ironic vs. Coincidental

Something is ironic when the opposite of what was expected happens. Otherwise, it’s just coincidental.

Imply vs. Infer

Imply and inter are similar to borrow vs. lend in that the person’s role in the sentence determines the word. If you are listening to someone and drawing a conclusion out of the argument, you are inferring something. If you are the speaker and are suggesting something without outright saying the words, you are implying that something.

Nauseous vs. Nauseated

Get this one correctly and show up everyone still using it incorrectly  – which is a great number of people. Nauseous means causing nausea. Thus, you wouldn’t want to say “I’m nauseous.” Instead, use nauseated, meaning “experiencing nausea.”

Farther vs. Further

Farther = a physical distance, whereas further is a synonym to more or additional. Further describes the extent of an action/situation.

For example: “If we travel any farther, I’ll whine further.”

Fewer vs. Less

Here’s an example of fewer vs. less: “There are fewer fish in the ocean, but there’s less pollution, too.” Use fewer if you can count out the separate items (the fish); use less if there’s no number associated, but only a mass (the pollution).

I like talking about grammar and punctuation, so I’ve written some additional blog posts to cover more on the subject. If you’re interested, check out “Overcoming Grammar (and Punctuation) Woes” and/or “Grammar Rules You Never Knew: A while vs. Awhile.

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