Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Commonly Misused Words

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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2 minute writing tip final

I am releasing an e-book with a collection of Two-Minute Tips I have shared on my blog. Now, you can have them in one convenient place for easy reference. Pre-Order price is 99¢ – Regular price will be $2.99.


*** If you would like to send me a few sample pages (around 7500 words or so, even though I will not edit that many on the blog. It just gives me more to choose from) for me to edit and share on an upcoming blog post, please do so in the body of an email to AliciaMDean@aol.com. Please use the subject line: “Blog Submission” This is for published or unpublished authors. In the email, please include whether you would like me to use your name or keep it anonymous, and whether or not you would like me to include any contact info or buy info for your books. Also, you can let me know if you would like for me to run my edits by you before posting on the blog. Please keep in mind, this is for samples to use for blog posts. I will not edit or use samples from all the submissions I receive, but I will use as many as possible. 


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How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it.

Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process.

Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does!

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Filed under For Writers, Promo Tips, Tips from an Editor

15 responses to “Tuesday Two-Minute Writing Tip – Commonly Misused Words

  1. Ashantay Peters

    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. 🙂


  2. More great tips Alicia!
    Shared & Pinned…

    Good luck and God’s blessings


  3. 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.


  4. Argh, discreet/discrete gets me every time! Great list. 🙂


  5. 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.


  6. A curse on the evil person who invented effect/affect.


  7. Helpful list! Whose and who’s seem to be out to get me. Lol


  8. coryellsusan

    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.


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