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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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