Monday, March 12, 2012

Writing: Commonly misused words, their corrections

  • advise (give counsel)/advice (the counsel given)
  • discrete (separate)/discreet (careful to avoid embarrassment)
  • crush (compress)/crash (collide)
  • been (past participle of be)/being (state of existing)
  • am (meaning I’m or I am)
  • principal (person taking a leading role, as in a school)/ principle (rule guiding behaviour)
  • its (showing possession, e.g. its length is unknown)/ it’s (abbreviation of it is)
  • your (showing possession, e.g., your book)/ you’re (abbreviation of you are)
  • affect (verb, e.g. sunlight affects the colour)/ effect (as noun, results produced, e.g. the effects of alcohol; as verb, bring about, e.g. the boat was used to effect a rescue)
  • a lot (a large amount. Do NOT write as one word)
  • councillor (one who serves on a council)/counsellor (one who advises)
  • disinterest (unbiased, as in a disinterested observer)-- not to be confused with lack of interest (the boy appeared uninterested in the book)
  • flaunt (to show off)/ flout (to express contempt, as in to flout the rules)
  • fewer (use when referring to numbers, e.g. fewer people)/ less (use when referring to quantity, e.g. less reason to complain)
  • razed down (the correct word is razed, since it means destroyed completely)
  • requested for (should be either requested or asked for)
  • access (Do not say “he was unable to access the compound”; either say, “he was unable to gain access to the compound” or “he was unable to get into the compound”. The word may be used as a verb in some cases, e.g. “he accessed the data” but do not over-use; instead find a more precise verb.) 
  • middle-aged  (give the exact age)
  • military officer/police official (give the title)
  • lady/gentleman (say woman, man)
  • “area” as in “area chief” (give the name of the place on first reference and after that just say “chief”)
  • on the other hand (does not mean ‘also’. It is used only when two things are being discussed: ‘on the one hand…on the other hand’).
  • whopping (large, as in “The con artist stole a whopping Sh2 billion”)/whooping (as in “The child contracted whooping cough”, an illness)

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