Made in America

Commonly Misused Words

We recently devoted a blog post to words that are commonly misspelled. This week, let’s look at ten commonly misused words. Let’s face it–the English language has a lot of nuances, and sometimes what sounds right is actually wrong. Devoting a little time to learning how to properly use words and phrases will do nothing but help you as a writer.

Accept versus Except

Accept means agree with or receive. Except means apart from.    

Example: I would accept your apology about forgetting my birthday…except for the fact that it’s on the same day as yours.

Affect versus effect

Affect is a verb meaning “to influence something.” Effect is a noun meaning “the result of.”

Example: The book affected me so much that I started my own nonprofit. (verb)

Example: The effect your constant sleeping in class that you will likely fail the test.  (noun)

Breathe versus Breath

Breathe is a verb that is the act of taking in air. A breath is a noun that is the actual air you take in.

Example: When you breathe in, try to fill your lungs completely. (verb)

Example: If you’re feeling anxious, take a deep breath. (noun)

Bring versus Take

Someone brings something to you; it is a command you give someone. On the other hand, you take something to someone else.

Example: Bring me that present so I can take it to the party.

Farther versus Further

Farther is physical distance; further is figurative distance.

Example: The ice cream shop I like is farther away, but totally worth it.

Example: She told you I don’t like ice cream? Nothing is further from the truth!

Fewer versus Less

Fewer is only used when talking about actual things you can count. Less is for singular mass nouns.

Example: I would like fewer mushrooms on my pizza.

Example: There is less salt in this recipe.

If versus Whether

If is for a conditional sentence and whether shows two possibilities.

Example: If you want to watch the movie, then you need to clean your room.

Example: Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to clean your room.

It’s versus its

It’s is a contraction for it is. Any other time, use its. The easiest way to test if you’re using it right? Change “its” to ”it is” in your sentence and see if it still makes sense.  

Example: It’s time to start wrapping presents.

Example: “Give the dog its bone.

Lie versus Lay

Lie means to be in a horizontal position. Lay means to put something down.

Example: Lie down and tell me your dreams.

Example: Lay your phone down and pay attention to me when I’m talking.

Due the fact

Believe it or not, this is a terrible phrase, but it’s commonly used. Just use the word “because.”  Easiest way to remember when to use the phrase “due to”? Nothing is due to unless you have a book due to the library.

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