Friday, April 22, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Commonly Misused Words Part One

I know this post is a little late. Okay, maybe more than a little late.

Anyway, here is the first installment of Grammatically Yours. If you are unsure what this is, you can read the introductory post here. Basically, Grammatically Yours is a series of posts about anything and everything grammar. Don’t forget that these posts are designed to be interactive. Feel free to give suggestions for future posts, and I will add them to my list.

Writers love words. We love to experiment with them. We love to study them. We move them around and around and around until we are completely satisfied that they communicate what we want them to.

Words tell stories.

They convey emotions.

They cause kingdoms to rise and fall. [I am only partially kidding.]

They can also be misused.

I am not talking about misusing them in a hurtful way (but please don’t do that either). I am talking about misusing them in a grammatical way – something that is actually quite easy to do. Even writers with years and years of experience sometimes use the wrong words.

Below is a partial list of commonly misused words. I will include ten here and ten in a second post.

To, too

There, their, they’re

Affect, effect

Your, you’re

Illicit, elicit

Capital, capitol

Through, threw, thorough, though, thru

Accept, except

Ascent, assent

Breath, breathe

When I post the second list of ten, I will include the definitions of the words in this first list. But for now, I would like some interaction. Have you ever had trouble with any of these words? In your experience, which ones seem to be misused the most? If you would like, define one of these sets of words. Or just comment on whatever you want. *smile*

Always remember that the purpose of these posts is not to nitpick. Everyone will make mistakes. Not long ago I sent a message to someone and wrote “too” when I meant “to.” Or was it “to” when I meant “too”? *head-smack*

It happens to everyone. We just have to be aware of the differences.

Chimichanga Challenge Update: 11,422/40,000


  1. Nice list. Might add that "capitol" should be capitalized when referring to the building in Wash., DC where Congress meets. Right?

    The one that I see misused most is "your" when it should be "you're" (contraction for you are). And you're right; we all make mistakes at times.

  2. Connie - You are correct. When speaking specifically of the U.S. Capitol, the word "capitol" would be capitalized. However, when speaking generically about a building occupied by a state legislature, the word "capitol" is usually lowercase. Good point!

    I frequently see "your" and "you're" misused as well.

    Thanks for your comment! :)

  3. I'm a writer (and former editor) with little more than standard training in grammar. I think my grammar is decent, maybe better than most (a sad reflection of our public school system). Yet I still struggle to get some things right--like "who" and "whom." I use that trick where you reverse the sentence but I'm not always confident that it's working. Maybe you can help out there??

  4. Kristen, hi! Well, you listed more than one of my thorns. But, these two give me the most trouble out of the bunch: affect and effect.

    I always have to stop and think about how the word's being used in the sentence. Affect is a verb meaning "to influence". Effect is a noun meaning "result". If I stop and think it through, I can usually get it right. But it's just one of those things I can't type up super fast. I have to pause and elaborate. Great post!

  5. Oh, and I know you from twitter! *waves* Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

  6. Connie - Grammar can be so tricky - like your example of when to use "who" and "whom." I would be happy to talk a bit about "who" and "whom" in a later post in this series. :)

    I love everything grammar. I even took every grammar-related class I could find in college. (Yeah...I'm a nerd. *grin*) So please don't hesitate to ask questions. I will try to help in any way I can. Though I can tell you already have a pretty strong foundation. A successful writer *and* editor? :)

    Anita - Hi! *waves back* Yes, we are fellow Tweeps!

    Aren't affect and effect confusing? Sometimes I have to pause a moment and think about them too. They are probably the words in this list that cause me the most trouble. Thanks for taking the time to define them!

    And thank *you* for stopping by! :)

    BTW, I love your blog!

  7. I see breathe/breath a lot. I sometimes misuse those words, but not because I don't know the difference, just because I'm in a rush. :-)

    I have trouble with reign and rein. Those I always have to look up. It's like a mental block. LOL

  8. Jennifer - Welcome to the blog! I sometimes do the same thing with breathe/breath. I get in a rush and type them wrong.

    Reign and rein are a great pair! Those can be easy to confuse. Maybe I'll include them in the second list. :)

  9. Maria - Excellent! That is another great pair. I will include them in the second list in tomorrow's post.

    Welcome to the blog! :)

  10. Kristin,
    As always lady, awesome post! I know sometimes when I'm in a hurry, I'll accidentally put the wrong word down LOL. Like the other day, I noticed I'd put hear instead of here in my MS (er, yeah--totally didn't make sense--LOL).

  11. Rebekah - Haha! I've done that before too then caught the mistake in the revisions. It's so easy to do when typing fast.

    Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the compliment. :)

  12. What a great post! I'm aspiring to be a copyeditor and misused words are a huge pet peeve of mine. Although, I'll reluctantly admit that I make mistakes too. ;)

    Homonyms are my least favorite words because if I'm typing too fast, I'll inevitably use the wrong one, even though I know the difference between them.

    Another good pair is lose and loose. I see so many people who use "loose" when they mean "lose" (as in you lose or he loses the race). Ironically, I hardly ever see "lose" when meant to be "loose."

  13. Jenni - Thank you! Homonyms are hard, aren't they? Sometimes I'll use the wrong one when typing fast as well. It is so easy to do.

    "Lose" and "loose" are a great pair!

    Thanks for the comment! :)