These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
15 posts • Page 1 of 1
Last week I gave you fifteen commonly misused words—here’s the second part of that list. I’m sure that I’ve missed some words that bother you, but these are the ones that I’ve come across most often during editing, and also gleaned from suggestions that I was given on my editing Facebook page (Superior Editing Services).
1. assure/ensure – To assure is to give a person confidence. To ensure is to make certain that something will happen. I assure you that I did not eat the last cookie—but you might want to know that adding a pinch of salt to the dough will ensure that your cookies are tastier.
2. emigrate/immigrate – You emigrate FROM someplace. You immigrate TO someplace.
3. affect/effect – This one is harder, because although affect is usually a verb and effect is usually a noun, each can be the other part of speech in less common contexts. Here are some sentences for you:
Most common usages:
My granddaughter’s whining and pouting do not affect (v.) me, but a good night’s sleep has a marvelous effect (n.) on my disposition. (One way to remember this: affect starts with ‘a’ and so does action, so affect is a verb.)
Less common usages:
The dementia patient had a flattened affect (n. meaning ‘personality’).
If we work hard, we can effect (v. meaning ‘bring about’) change in this community.
4. less/fewer – Use less when you are writing about something that is not specifically numbered. Joey got less soup than Sam. Use fewer when you are writing about something that is specifically numbered. Joey got fewer apples than Sam. (So those express lanes signs that say “12 items or less” are wrong.)
5. irregardless – It’s simply not a word. Don’t use it. Use regardless instead.
6. except/accept – These words have meanings that aren’t at all similar; they’re confused because they are pronounced almost identically. Accept is always a verb, with several meanings along the lines of ‘agree, receive.’ Except is almost never a verb, and it means ‘but, apart from.’ Sample sentences: I cannot accept your ridiculous excuses. You have done everything except the one thing I asked you to do. (You can do the same trick as in #3 to remember: accept = action, because both begin with ‘a.’)
7. lose/loose and breath/breathe and cloth/clothe and bath/bathe and choose/chose – My Facebook readers suggested some of these pairs, and there are many, many words like this—related words with only one different letter that changes the meaning. My advice to you, if you’re unsure of words like this, is to have a second or third pair of eyes read your MS, or to keep a list of them near where you write. I could give sentences for each pair, but unfortunately I’d just be scratching the surface.
8. lightning/lightening – lightning accompanies thunder. Lightening is that thing that happens just before childbirth when the baby shifts into birth position, or it can mean ‘the process of making lighter.’
9. lie/lay (and their related forms) – I freely admit that I still have to look these up at times. Here’s a site that has a handy chart; you might want to print it out and keep it near your computer. http://data.grammarbook.com/blog/definitions/no-lielay/
10. between/among – Use between when you are writing about a specific number of choices. Use among when you are writing about an unnumbered group. I had to choose between cake, pie, or donuts from the dessert bar. I walked among the guests, looking for the person who had stolen my cookies.
11. invite/invitation and electric/electricity – When I hear these misused, I suspect that the ‘wrong’ usages are regionalisms, and are probably correct in informal usage in certain parts of the country. Nevertheless, try to avoid constructions like this: I got an invite to the royal wedding (you got an invitation). The electric went out during the thunderstorm (it was the electricity).
12. a part/ apart – The space between ‘a’ and ‘part’ gives the phrase a totally different meaning from the single word apart. If I say This is a great church to be a part of, then I really love that congregation. If I say This is a great church to be apart of, then I am sarcastically expressing a wish to separate myself from that congregation. Apart means ‘separate from.’ A part means ‘a piece or segment.’
13. every day/everyday – If something is an every day (adj. + noun) occurrence, then it happens each day. If something is an everyday (adj.) occurrence, then it is ordinary. I wear my jeweled tiara every day, but I wear my everyday jeans when I don’t want to seem pretentious.
14. tithe – this word means ‘a tenth of something,’ or as a verb, ‘to give a tenth.’ I’ve heard people say, I tithe ten percent of my income. This is redundant; they could just say I give a tithe of my income. Stranger still is when I hear the word as if it means something like ‘offering.’ I give a tithe of ten dollars every Sunday. I would tithe twenty percent, if I could.
15. unique – If something is unique, it is the only one of its kind. Unique does not mean ‘creative’ or ‘interesting’ or even ‘unusual.’ You should not say (although I see and hear it all the time) that something is very unique or extremely unique. Correct usages: Every person’s fingerprints are unique. There is a unique solution to the equation 2x + 7 = 9.
Last week I asked if any of these surprised you, or if you have any questions about them, or if you’d like to add to the list. I’ll repeat that this week, and add this: I’ve got a list of topics for these classes, but I welcome your ideas, too. My list only has about a dozen items on it, and I’d really like to know what writing questions you have. Otherwise, I’ll run out of topics for lessons in the next few months.
Great list Jan. just the other day I was asking Google about the everyday/every day distinction. I did not know how to differentiate correctly.
As far as topics are concerned, what abut a dialogue primer? Where I most often struggle is with where the commas and capitalizations go in a sentence that has dialogue and a tag (don't know if that is the correct word for it. I mean the Jan said part).
Thanks again for doing these, they are very helpful.
Mike, I like the idea of a dialog primer. It's complicated somewhat by the fact that writers of UK English punctuate dialog differently from writers of US English. Nevertheless, I'll put that on my list.
Thank you for these wonderful lessons! I think that I do have an understanding of how most of these words should be used, but a few of them surprised me. I thought that I understood how to use affect/effect, but I didn't, so I'm very glad to be made aware of that problem! Thank you for the little tip to help us remember.
The differences between lie and lay bewilder me. I'm glad to hear I'm that I'm not alone in that!
I was surprised to learn the proper usage of tithe and unique.
I didn't know that UK English has different punctuation for dialog! I'm from Canada and we use British spelling, but I didn't know of other differences. Could you do a lesson on UK/USA grammar differences so that I know if I'm being consistent. Most of what I read is from The US, so I'm getting info from both and I'm probably all over the place.
My FaithWriters profile: RachelM FW member profile
Rachel, I'll put that on the list. I may have to get the help of a UK writer/editor for that one, as I'm certainly not an expert. I know that there ARE differences, but I don't know specifically what all of them are.
Thanks for the kind words.
Thanks for these lessons on word misuse, Jan. The lie/lay one is one that often sounds wrong ro me but which I find tricky. I'll have to study the table on that link you included.
Here's one about which I'd appreciate your comments. Line vs lane.
Perhaps I'm overly pedantic but when I see signs that say: 'Form one lane' I think they should say 'Form one line' as I think the 'lane' is the section of road - as in country lane. Maybe it's just in Australia that we have those 'Form one lane' signs. I guess they're part of our language anyway now, being on road signs.
What about this one, which may be regional - I'm not sure. When asked, 'How are you?' a lot of people reply 'Good, thanks,' while I was brought up to say 'Well thanks.' Which do you think is more correct?
I have a suggestion for a writing lesson. Maybe you could do one on the use of colons, semi-colons, dashes and/or new sentences to break up writing. I am often puzzled as to whether to start a new sentence or whether to use a semi-colon and continue the sentence.
And one more. (That previous non-sentence is an example of one.) About writing in non-sentences vs proper sentences. I notice that modern novelists often use non-sentences.
Eg. Out of bed before dawn. It wasn't the first time. A red-eye rising.
How acceptable is this sort of writing? When is a non-sentence acceptable.
Many thanks your helpful lessons. Thanks for reading my comments.
Ellen, thanks for your suggestions! I'll definitely add a lesson on colons, semicolons, and dashes to the list, as well as one on sentence fragments.
As for your questions: I think that "form one lane" must be an Aussie thing, as I've never seen a sign like that here in the US. I'm pretty sure that here in the US those signs would say "form one line."
You're correct in thinking that "I'm well, thanks" is more correct than "I'm good, thanks"--but it's not as simple as that. Both "good" and "well" have multiple meanings, and when you were taught to say "I'm well," that was because "well" indicates a state of health, and "good" indicates a state of morality.
However, consider this: You would say Jan plays the piano well, but you can also say Jan is a good piano player. In this sense, good has nothing to do with Jan's morality, but with her level of skill.
Finally, this is one of those cases in which formal and informal speech differ. While everyone will understand you if you say "I'm well, thanks," it may sound a bit stuffy or old-fashioned. "I'm good" has become perfectly normal, accepted casual speech--one of the issues of evolving language. It doesn't bother me at all; other people may feel quite differently.
On a related note: Here in the US, we have an informal usage of "I'm good" that may not have reached Australia. You'd see it in an exchange like this:
"Would you like some more pie?"
"No, I'm good."
When my husband and I visited friends in England six years ago, they said they'd never heard that particular bit of slang, which is quite common in the US. One more example of informal and evolving speech, I guess.
Jan, I'm sure you may have covered this somewhere, but I didn't see it in your currest list of misused words. An e-mail from my niece this morning reminded me of how often I see "your" used instead of "you're."
"Glad your doing well..." Ouch!
I'll be eternally grateful to you for the lie/lay info. I'll probably need to refer to it until the day I lay down my pen for the last time. I wish there was a catchy phrase that would make remembering the difference in meaning a bit easier; like the "i" before "e" except after "c" rule. Maybe we could have a contest to come up with one. (Did I use that colon correctly?)
And almost every explanation of words in this list has broadened my understanding of their meaning/differences. I definitely never considered that irregardless was not a word. And I'll never go on an express lane at Shoprite without thinking of you.
Which leads me to ask you. Have you ever thought of producing a manual with all of your lessons in the exact form as you have posted them? I'd buy it! I know I could copy, paste, and print them, but that would not be the same; and could be unethical, yes?
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60
I write even when I think I can't, because I must.
I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!
"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty
Lillian, I considered putting these words in this lesson, but decided not to, as they're usually errors in spelling rather than using incorrect words because of not understanding their meanings. But I heartily agree--far too many people make this error. I'd add two/too/to ... it's/its ... there/their/they're ... then/than ... and many other similar sets of words to this list.
I would have used a comma there. Semicolons have two main functions; the most common is to separate two independent, but related clauses (as I've done here). Since the last part of your sentence (like the "i" before "e" except after "c" rule) cannot stand alone as a complete sentence, a comma would work better. I'll be doing a lesson on semicolons, dashes, parentheses, and commas sometime in the coming weeks.
Not at all unethical. I've posted them on this free forum so that everyone can enjoy them. If you'd like to copy, paste, and assemble them, I encourage you to do so. At one point when I was originally doing these lessons, I offered a compilation as a Word doc to anyone who emailed me for them. That compilation, unfortunately, was lost in a computer crash, and many of those lessons were lost here in the forums when FaithWriters crashed many months ago. But perhaps I'll make another compilation once I have several more lessons posted here.
I think this list is great. I have present tense of lie and lay, but need to look up any other tense to double check. I remember lie is what a person does because it has I in it. I lie down. Of course The dogs lie down is correct and the I trick doesn't work, but the I reminds me which one to use, then it's easy to figure out for other creatures.
I came across two words this week that I didn't realize there was a difference. I thought, oohh, I hope Jan covers these.
Unbelief means not willing to believe
Disbelief means unable to believe
I don't think I've ever heard the word unbelief before, so that would likely mean many people use them incorrectly.
I also didn't realize UK rules differed with quotes. I knew they used the single one for main quotes and double for inside a quote, but didn't realize there was a difference in commas or period rule.
I think why some people get messed up is sometimes they us a narrative line: "Please hurry." Shann bounced on the balls of her feet as she stared at the clock.
Tagline: "Please hurry," said Shann.
In that case, a comma is used because said Shann is not a complete sentence. We need to know what Shann said for it to be complete. The first example, though, is two complete sentences.
Sometimes God calms the storm; Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child
Shann, disbelief and unbelief have never fallen onto my radar. Very interesting--a brief look online shows me that most dictionaries and thesauruses have them as synonyms or near-synonyms; the differences are noted in blogs and websites. So I'm not sure what to think--I'll do some more research in the morning, perhaps. If I were writing something where I'd need one of those words, I'm pretty sure I'd have used "disbelief" for either of the meanings you cited. Thanks for pointing me toward these words.
The difference in UK/US dialogue isn't so much in the use of commas and periods, but in their placement inside or outside the quotation marks. I'm fairly certain that I'll have that class next week; just waiting on my UK friend to confirm what I've written.
Loving this class and my commenters--it keeps me on my toes!
What happens if I tell a lie; I thought that meant I had to get on my knees.
Because punctuation is not my strong point, I join this conversation with a little caution.
I studied in England. If I was quoting something from some where I would use 'quote'. The double marks "This is what I am saying" were commonly referred to as speech marks.
I've noticed that America is taking over the world
One of my pet hates was having a spell checker which only gave American corrections; guys it is called the ENGLISH language
However, the simple truth is that as a part of FW, and seeing the way things are going, it seems logical to me to switch to American English, and seeing as I've got to relearn it all anyway, I might as well go Yankee.
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.
My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
Irregardless! really! These are some real eye-opener! I see there are some concerns about the single and double quotations, am not alone.
I have a question. Does Academic Writing has it's place in general articles, dialogues, & novels? I know that in Academic Writings one must pay close attention to things such as comma-splice, dependent & independent clause, sentence fragment etc. However, do I have to carry over the same rules & formality when writing a novel or other forms of article pieces?
My writing is a passion, not a hobby!
Amilli, that's an interesting question, and there are a lot of factors that enter into my answer.
Of course you should have a mastery of good grammar, and generally speaking, you should use it in any kind of writing--novels, essays, devotionals, and anything else you might write. However, there are some exceptions:
1. The spoken dialogue of your characters. Unless your character is a robot, or a rigidly academic professor, or has some other reason for speaking correctly all the time, dialogue should reflect the relaxed speech of normal people. When we speak, we use fragments, contractions, run-on sentences and the like, and our characters should sound like real, flawed human beings.
2. Your 'writer's voice.' Whether you are writing as a first person narrator or a third person observer, you may want your narrative voice to have a distinct style, and that style often includes elements such as intentional fragments or run-ons--even comma splices. Mastering these is an advanced skill; astute readers can easily see the difference between writing in which the author uses fragments because she doesn't know any better, and writing in which the author uses intentional fragments (for example). Indeed, the sentence fragments (or other grammatical 'errors') of a master writer will be seamless enough that the reader won't even notice them.
3. Poetry. Especially in free verse poetry, you can toss the rules of grammar out the window. Even in traditional structured and rhymed poetry, poets typically play around with syntax.
I hope that answers your question--please let me know if you have a follow-up!
Yes that answered my question. Am always concern about over-doing it with grammar perfection when writing devotionals or other such articles. I get it now.
Right now am in the process of writing a book & my narrator has the voice of a teen (the book is in the form of a Diary). This means the writing has a lot of abbreviations & text message short hand. I was just wondering if an editor or a publisher would take a look at it & toss it in the bin!
My writing is a passion, not a hobby!
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