Got two minutes? Then check out this week’s quick tip ~ A list of words that often confuse writers.
Hello and welcome…I am a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, as well as an author. I often struggle with my own writing, and I have found that sometimes, a little reminder of ways to improve the process can be helpful, so, I like to share these moments of brilliance with others :). But, in this busy world of ours, who has time for pages and pages of writing tips? That’s why I’ve condensed mine down to quick flashes you can read in (approximately) two minutes. Enjoy…
Disclaimer: All of my tips are suggestions, and are only my opinion. And, for the most part, there are exceptions when going against my advice will make your story read better. Take what works, leave the rest.
I see the following words misused often, so I thought perhaps having them listed in one place might come in handy…
Affect / effect
‘Affect’ is normally a verb and ‘effect’ is normally a noun:
The effect of the storm was devastating.
The storm affected the entire town.
Sometimes, ‘effect’ is used as a verb, when meaning ‘to bring about’:
The movement was a great way to effect change.
It can also describe belongings:
The police released her personal effects to her family.
‘Affect’ can also mean to display a false sentiment, or an affectation:
He seemed to like the gift, but I think his reaction was an affect.
It can also describe a facial expression or demeanor:
In spite of her anger, she displayed little affect.
That / which
Use ‘that’ for restrictive clauses for specific, identifying information, and ‘which’ for non restrictive clauses, for general, non-essential information. Normally, the clauses that require ‘which’ will be set off by commas.:
Sitcoms that are funny are my favorite TV shows.
(This sentence is saying that only FUNNY sitcoms are my favorite)
Sitcoms, which are funny, are my favorite TV shows.
(This is basically indicating that all sitcoms are funny, but that sitcoms in general are my favorite TV shows.)
In other words, if you can do without the clause and not change the meaning, the correct word choice is ‘which.’ If eliminating the clause would change the meaning, the word choice is ‘that.’
Blond / Blonde
‘Blond’ is a male noun and ‘Blonde’ is a female noun. There are different schools of thought, depending on which style guidelines you use, but for the most part, ‘blond’ is considered an adjective for either sex. However, in order to keep it simple, the best rule of thumb is ‘blond’ is always for males, and ‘blonde’ is always for females, whether used as a noun or adjective. For non-gender situations (a blond brownie), ‘blond’ is correct.
Discreet / discrete
‘Discreet’ means low-key, modest, cautious.
‘Discrete’ means ‘separate or distinct.’
Alright / all right
‘Alright’ is the incorrect usage of ‘all right’ and doesn’t ‘officially’ exist, although it is becoming more widely accepted.
Lightning / lightening
‘Lightning’ means the flashes in the sky during a storm.
‘Lightening’ means to make lighter, or to lighten
Taught / taut / taunt
‘Taught’ is the past tense of “to teach”
‘Taut’ means tight.
‘Taunt’ means to tease or goad
Mantle / mantel
‘Mantle’ is a cloak or wrap
‘Mantel’ is a shelf above a fireplace
Peak / peek / pique
‘Peak’ is a high point, such as a mountain peak
‘Peek’ means to look or peer at something.
‘Pique’ means annoyance or anger
Further / farther
‘Further’ is abstract (time, amount, feelings)
‘Farther’ is distance you can actually measure
So…do you have trouble with these? What are some words that trip you up?
Until next time…happy writing!
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15 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Commonly Misused Words”
This is a great list of words! Just wanted to mention that pique can also mean to rouse or provoke, as in piquing interest. I know because it’s one of my favorite words. 🙂
Indeed, it can. Thanks for adding that and for visiting. 🙂
More great tips Alicia!
Shared & Pinned…
Good luck and God’s blessings
Thank you bunches!
Two other words used incorrectly are “that” and “who”. That refers to objects: The clock that was given to me by my grandmother; Who refers to people: The boy who came to the door was a stranger.
Excellent additions to the list. YES, so many people use those incorrectly. Thanks!
Argh, discreet/discrete gets me every time! Great list. 🙂
Ha! That’s a tricky one… Thank you!
Nice ones! I have to always think about its or it’s. I have to figure out if I want a possessive, (its) or a contraction for it is (it’s). Sometimes I also have to think through the your and you’re, too. Thanks for sharing! It is unbelievably helpful to have tips from an editor.
Yes, several words in the English language give me pause. You’re welcome…and thank you!
A curse on the evil person who invented effect/affect.
Absolutely, especially since there are those pesky little exceptions.
Helpful list! Whose and who’s seem to be out to get me. Lol
AH, yes, good one! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.
How about bring and take? I always have to pause. Usually “bring it back” and “take it to” will work–but not always. For example: Bring it with you when you come to the party. Ugh.