Words That Are Commonly Confused

March 10, 2011

English is a tough language to master–even when  it’s your original language. The recent Arby’s ad campaign shows how words that are spelled similarly aren’t pronounced the same–Good Mood Food. We also can’t count on simple letters to help us–send some sugar (shouldn’t all words that start with s followed by a vowel have the “SSSSS” sound?).

Here’s a list of commonly confused words that I’ve seen in manuscripts I’ve edited.

  • Accept – Except. Accept is a verb that  means to receive. Except is generally used as a preposition. Examples: I accept your nomination.  Everyone is here except Susan.
  • All ready – already. All ready means everything or everyone  is ready. Already is an adverb modifying an adjective, verb, or another adverb. Examples: We took a poll and discovered we are all ready. He is already ten minutes late.
  • All together – altogether. All together means everyone is co-located. Altogether means completely. Examples: The team was all together at the quarterback’s wedding. You are altogether incorrect in your assumption.
  • Allusion – illusion. Allusion comes from the verb allude and means reference. Illusion means erroneous judgment. Examples: His blatant allusion to her error shows his true feelings about her. She thought she saw his car ahead of her, but it was an illusion.
  • Amount – number. Amount refers to quantity. Number refers to things counted. Examples: The amount of sugar in this cereal is shocking. I noted a number of errors in your calculations.
  • Fewer – less. Fewer is used when things can be counted. Use less for quantity. Examples: The express checkout line is for people buying fifteen items or fewer (note that less is incorrect grammar even if we see it every day in stores). The police report shows less crime than last year at this time.
  • Anxious – eager. Anxious is used when anxiety is involved. Eager is used when something is highly desirable. Examples: I was anxious when I saw my child get hit with the hockey puck. I am eager to start my new job.

This list is long enough for one post, so I’ll continue the list of commonly confused words in my next post.

Happy writing!

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