Advertising
Advertising

15 Commonly Confused Words Editors Want You to Know

15 Commonly Confused Words Editors Want You to Know

Editors usually have a lot of work when it comes to proofreading, because writers pay attention to the overall tone and style, and sometimes neglect the spelling and punctuation. Editors are always criticizing their writers for forgetting to put commas and for confusing homophones or words with similar meanings. Here are 15 commonly confused words that editors are tired of explaining to their writers.

1. Principle vs Principal

As they are homophones, they are easily confused and therefore very often misused. A “Principal”, generally speaking, can be defined as the most important person in some kind of organization or a group (commonly used when referring to head of a school or university). On the other hand, “principle” is a general idea, belief, doctrine or an accepted rule of action.

So if you say that you are a man or a woman of principle, it means that you have certain beliefs and you tend to stand your ground. If you use principal in this sentence (with an article of course, definite or indefinite), well, it may mean that your spouse is the head of a school.

2. Anyway vs Any Way

Should I write anyway or any way? It depends on what you want to say. The synonyms for anyway are regardless, anyhow, in any case, and it is also used as a linking word. For example: I don’t care, I will do it anyway.

If you divide this compound noun, it will have a completely different meaning. We need to help them any way we can. Any way – by any means necessary or in any manner. Anyway, I believe that this will help you in any way.

3. Serial vs cereal

Yesterday, around five o’clock, the police department arrested a man that was suspected to be a cereal killer. Wait a minute – cereal killer? Yes, there are approximately 20 billion jokes on the internet about cereal killer. You start your day with a bowl of cereal. Serial, on the other hand, is something that consist of a series.

Advertising

4. Cite vs site

Another set of homophones that can be easily misused. “Site” is a location and if you cite somebody, you are using their words or making a reference to somebody or something.

He cited Aristotle, while standing in front of a beautiful site near Parthenon.

5. Complement vs compliment

Give my compliments to the chef. I would also like to say that this wine you suggested is a real complement to this delicious food.

A compliment is way of expressing admiration or praise, whereas a complement is a noun derived from the verb complete.

Man: You complete me.
Woman: So I am a complement to you? Is that even a compliment?

6. Beside vs besides

This is probably one of the trickiest pairs – an editor’s nightmare. But, let’s get it clear once and for all. Beside is a preposition, while besides can be used both as a preposition and as an adverb. The meaning of beside is next to, or close to: Put that pen beside the notebook; You can sit beside me. In both of these sentences you can use next to instead of beside.

Advertising

Besides as a preposition means apart fromBesides me, did you tell that to anyone else? As an adverb, it means moreover, furthermore, also… Besides, it is also good for your health.

7. All together vs altogether

Altogether, I think we should definitely go there. And, we should go there all together. In order to make it perfectly clear, let’s rephrase this sentence.
All in all, I think we should definitely go there. And everyone should go there.

Altogether is an adverb and it means all in all, everything included or everything considered, completely or wholly. If you want to say everyone or all of us, the phrase you are looking for is all together.

8. Allusion vs illusion

This is proof that just one letter makes a big difference. If you make an allusion, you are indirectly referring to something or someone. Example: The first sentence in his new book is actually an allusion to his previous book.

If you, on the other hand, make illusions, I envy you (I’ve always wanted to become an illusionist). Example: His newest illusion is somehow an allusion to the famous David Copperfield.

9. Elicit vs illicit

In order not to confuse these two words, you should try to remember that elicit is a verb, whereas illicit is an adjective. The former one means to evoke or to call forth, while the latter has the meaning of illegal.

Advertising

It is a common belief that the color blue can elicit feelings of depression. Selling the alcohol to minors is illicit. Your behavior can elicit some illicit actions.

10. Affect vs effect

How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you are not sure which one of these you should use? Don’t worry, you are most certainly not the only one. Both of these words can be used as verbs as well as nouns, and maybe this is where the confusion is born. The most common way to distinguish these two is when you are using affect as a verb and effect as a noun. But, wait for it, because there is more than that.

Affect, as a verb, means to produce or to act on. For example: Bad weather affected the number of visitors on the music festival. Although it is mostly used as a verb, to have an impact on something or someone, it can also be used as a noun. In that case, affect is used to express feelings, emotions or facial expressions (usually in the terminology of psychology).

Effect, as a noun, usually represents a result as in – You can try to do it, but I am confident that it will have no effect. If used as a verb, it means to produce something as an effect. The synonyms are make something happen or bring about.

11. Advise vs advice

Unlike the previous set, these two are actually very simple to remember and to understand. Advise is a verb and it means to offer an opinion or, simply said, to give advice. Advice is a noun and it represents the offered opinion or recommendation in order to successfully conduct certain actions.

She strongly advised me not to give any advice to him.

Advertising

12. Disinterested vs uninterested

Let’s say you are a student and the exercise you are doing is adding negative prefixes. At one point, you are confused about the word interested. Is it disinterested or uninterested? Actually, if you just need to add suffixes, both are perfectly fine. However, the meaning isn’t the same.

If somebody is uninterested, he or she is bored. They have no interest whatsoever. Imagine the situation where you and your friend are strongly arguing about something. Unable to find a solution, or better yet, a compromise, you seek help from a friend of yours. If he is uninterested, you need to find another person to help or try to sort it out between yourselves. If, on the other hand, your friend is disinterested, he might help you because he is unbiased in this situation.

13. Lose vs loose

If you lose something, it means that you fail to keep it or you simply didn’t win. Lose is a verb, and it is commonly confused with loose. Loose is an adjective (but it can also be a verb) and it is used to described something that isn’t tight or isn’t bound together.

Mom where are my trousers? I have no idea, you probably lost them. Never mind I’ve found them. But they seem too loose. I think I need a belt.

14. Farther vs further

The everlasting dilemma – when to use farther and when further? Both of these are comparatives of far, but the meaning is slightly different. Farther is used to describe greater distances, a degree or a more advanced point. But so is further. So where is that difference then? Farther is used for physical distances, like farther down the road or farther to the left, whereas further is used for figurative ones.

15. Literarily vs figuratively

Completely two different words and for some strange reason, people tend to mix them up. Literarily describes the situation exactly as happened. If you want to use a metaphor, you will say figuratively.

I was literarily speechless. – You didn’t know what to say and you remain silent.
Figuratively speaking, we are in the same boat as you. – It’s just a metaphor and you aren’t really in any kind of a boat. Just a figure of speech. Therefore the expression figuratively.

More by this author

Katarina Milovanovic

Creative Writer

4 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home This Is What Happens When Someone Stops Using Heroin 6 Unusual Ways in which Going Green Can Enrich Your Life Girl Power: Meet 5 Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs 6 Lifehacks to Make Money Even When You Are Unemployed

Trending in Communication

1 40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place 2 6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak 3 How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic 4 How to Stop Living on Autopilot with Antonio Neves 5 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

Advertising

Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

Advertising

How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

Advertising

Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

Read Next