Confusing Words

A few weeks ago, a blog post went over several words that are frequently confused by writers (See More Confusing Words!). Here are a few more:

casual – informal
causal – causingcereal killer

cereal – breakfast food
serial – a series

choose – to select
chose – did choose (past tense of choose)

cite – to quote
site – a place
sight – to see

click – a slight, sharp sound
clique – an exclusive group
cliché – a trite phrase

collision – coming violently together
collusion – fraudulent scheme

complement – something that goes well with something
compliment – a flattering remark

council – a body of persons specially designated or selected for a purpose
counsel – an attorney; to give advice
consul – a foreign representative

cue – hint
queue – a line, especially people waiting their turn

dairy – cows and milking equipment
diary – a journal of daily activities

It’s always important to make sure you are using the same words, particularly when they are easily confused. Take the time to look up definitions if necessary to make sure you are using the correct word.

 

Is Good Grammar Old-Fashion or Old-Fashioned?

Due to technical difficulties when I was on vacation, my friend Kerie was not able to post this article about good old-fashioned grammar, but we will include it this week. Many thanks to Kerie!

Recently, while traveling with two friends in the back seat of a taxicab in Tulsa, Oklahoma following the 2014 NALS Professional Development and Education Conference, Kathy spotted a sign advertising “old fashion” root beer floats. The sign not only spoke to our ice cream cravings, but also sparked a grammar debate about the terms “old fashion” and “old-fashioned.” After some discussion, we decided we needed to do some research on the terms to clarify the appropriate usage.

As it turns out, our friends at the ice cream shop were wrong. “Old-fashioned” is a compound adjective meaning not in accord with or not following current fashion; or fashioned in a manner of old. When used as an adjective, it describes a noun, for example;

  • old-fashioned root beer float;
  • old-fashioned candy;
  • old-fashioned Christmas;
  • old-fashioned costumes.

“Old fashioned” can also be used as a noun, meaning a cocktail made of whiskey, bitters, sugar, and fruit. Notice that “old-fashioned” when used as a compound adjective has a hyphen because we link two adjectives by a hyphen when we use them to describe a noun. When used as a noun, “old fashioned” has no hyphen. My guess, though, is that the ice cream shop was advertising root beer floats and not liquor.

“Old fashion” is used colloquially (read incorrectly) and often in advertising, but it is simply incorrect.

We Appreciate Proofreading Tips Each and Everyday.

Use of the phrase each and every is really duplicative. Each really means the same thing as every. They both mean “a single thing.” You should use either one of those words but not both of them together:

  • Jeff brings his lunch every day.
  • They clocked in each day at 8:00 a.m.
  • Each worker worked 50 hours last week.
  • Every car in the lot was stuck in the snow.

Another issue people seem to have is every day and everyday. Everyday means commonplace or ordinary as in an everyday occurrence.

  • Cooking dinner is an everyday occurrence in my house.

Every day means something that happens every single day or each day. In fact, if you can add the word single between every and day or replace every day with each day, then every day should be two words. If not, then you use everyday.

  • She stopped at Starbucks every [single] day.
  • The chaos of getting ready for school with five siblings was an everyday occurrence. [you cannot replace everyday with each day so it is one word]
  • Her Starbucks stop was an everyday habit.
  • Someone was crying every [single] day while getting ready for school.

So here’s hoping writers will stop using “each and every” and practice adding single or replacing with each day to determine the proper usage of every day v. everyday. One can hope!

I am preparing every day for a two week vacation. In my absence, a fellow proofreading “nerd” (and I use that term lovingly) will guest blog. Kerie is amazing and brilliant and I’m sure will post great content. Please be gentle and supportive and I will pick up when I return. Ciao!

More Confusing Words!

In a post last year, we went over some words that seem to confuse a lot of people. Today, we will look at a few more.

Adapt – to adjust to something. He will adapt to living in a new state.

Adept – proficient. She was adept at crocheting.

Adopt – to choose. They will adopt the more frugal lifestyle.

 

Adverse – harmful; hostile. The counsel was particularly adverse on that issue.

Averse – opposed to. She was averse to the alcohol at every meeting.

 

Advice – information; recommendation. The advice of the lawyer was to pay the fine.

Advise – to recommend; to give counsel. The lawyer advised her to gather all her documentation.

 

Already – previously. She had already been to Barcelona.

All ready – all prepared. But she was all ready to go to Cannes.

 

Alternate – substitute; to take turns. He was the alternate on the firm’s bowling league.

Alternative – one of several things from which to choose. She chose the pink purse as an alternative to the black purse, which was out of stock.

 

Anyone – anybody. He said that anyone could do her job.

Any one – Any one person in a group. Any one of them could have answered the phone.

 

Beside – by the side of; separate from. The dog was well trained and walked beside him when he was on the leash.

Besides – in addition to; also. Besides the insurance benefits, the new job also offered a profit sharing plan.

 

Born – brought into life. The baby was born on February 29.

Borne – carried; endured. The weight of the box was borne equally by the two men.

 

Breach – a breaking; a violation. By accepting her business, there was a breach of his contract.

Breech – the hind end of the body. The baby was born breech first.

 

Breath – respiration. She could not catch her breath after running from the building.

Breathe – to inhale and exhale. It was difficult to breathe with the smoke in the air.

 

Broach –to open; to introduce. He was afraid to broach the subject of a raise with his boss.

Brooch – ornament. Her grandmother’s brooch was definitely an antique.

 

Cannot – usual form meaning to be unable. He cannot lift 50 pounds.

Can not – two words in the phrase “can not only” (where “can” means “to be able”). She can not only play soccer, but she also plays softball.

 

Canvas – a course cloth. The tent was made of canvas.

Canvass – to solicit. The volunteers for the mayoral candidate canvassed the neighborhood asking for donations.

 

Caret – a wedge shaped mark. Some of the Latin capital letters have a caret over them.

Carat – a unit of weight for precious stones. She had a two carat diamond in her wedding ring.

Karat – A unit of fineness for gold. His ring was 14 karat gold.

 

I hope you learned something from this list. We will go into even more confusing words in another post.

If you have words that confuse you or have another question that you come across while proofreading, please email proofthatblog@gmail.com.

 

 

More Quickies!

quick-tips-for-flyersHere is a compilation of tidbits that didn’t quite warrant their own blog post, but are interesting enough to share.

  • Is it wreck havoc or wreak havoc? According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, wreck means “a vehicle, airplane, etc., that has been badly damaged or destroyed; a ruined or destroyed ship; an accident in which a car, airplane, train, etc., is badly damaged or destroyed.” On the other hand, wreak means “to cause (something very harmful or damaging)” and “bring about, cause <wreak havoc>.” So the correct phrase is to wreak havoc.
  • Personal pronouns like myselfhimself, herself, etc. can ONLY be used in certain circumstances:
    • to reflect back to the subject – found myself craving a nap on my day off.
    • to emphasize a noun or a pronoun that has already been expressed – The secretaries themselves did all the work for the buffet.
    • Do NOT use a compound personal pronoun unless the noun or pronoun to which it refers is in the same sentence.
      • The reservations are for the Smiths and myself. (There is nothing for myself to refer back to here, so it should say “the Smiths and me.”)
      • John and myself can meet on Tuesday. (It should be “John and I can meet on Tuesday.”)
  • Family terms using the prefix great or the suffix in-law should always be hyphenated. However, terms involving step or grand are kept solid.
    • My great-grandmother lived in Arkansas.
    • John’s son-in-law wanted to move his family to Alaska.
    • I love being a grandmother.
    • Sara’s stepchildren are a blessing in her life.

Pretty quick, huh? I hope you learned a little something. Remember to email any topics you would like to see covered to proofthatblog@gmail.com!

 

Grammar Giggle – Is THERE Too Much Focus On Wrong Words, ESPN?

It is so disheartening that ESPN could make this error. This is the kind of error I see on Facebook a lot, but ESPN’s business is words and they should get it right. Their, there, they’re–they may all sound alike, but they are very different!

ESPN

Grammar Giggles – Dear Wendy’s, Are Brains Cannot Handle Your Signs!

A friend sent this Giggle to me.  While “are” and “our” are sometimes confusing, this is really basic 4th grade (or lower!) English stuff.

Wendys

Grammar Giggles – Hey Red Sox, Stick to What YOU’RE Good At!

Pulled this one from Twitter. Your and you’re are confusing to people. Just remember that if the sentence should read “If you see this, you are in second,” then use you’re–which is the contraction of you and are. If the sentence should be “If you see this, your second base is showing,” it means that second base belongs to you.  Pretty simple if you think about it for a minute or two–so please do!

Red Sox

Enclosed Please Find a Lesson on Antiquated Phrases

It seems that in the legal field, it is hard to break old habits–especially in the use of antiquated phrases. One of my least favorite is “enclosed please find.” If you are enclosing something, you only need to say “enclosed is” or “enclosed are” (if you are enclosing more than one thing). That says all that you need to say. You don’t need to fill up a piece of paper or an email with words for the sake of thinking you sound more intelligent when getting the point across and saving your reader time will serve the same purpose. Here are more phrases that you should stop using:

  • Above-referenced. If your communication has a “re:” line, and later in the letter you say “In the above-referenced case,” the reader has a tendency to have their eyes drift back up to the re: line and then back down to re-find their place. Instead use the re: line, but if you refer to it again, say “In the Smith v. Jones case” so your reader doesn’t get interrupted from your message.
  • Under separate cover. If you are sending something else separately, say “I am sending you separately (or by FedEx, etc.)
  • Please note that. This phrase is unnecessary. You don’t need to ask them to note something, just tell them and they are smart enough to at least mentally make note of it.
  • I am forwarding. Saying “I am sending” says the same thing without being so formal.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact me. What you’re asking them to do is to call or email you, so say “Please call me” or “Please contact me” (giving them the option for the most convenient method for them) instead.
  • At your earliest convenience. Give a specific date or just leave this phrase out.
  • With regard to. Use “regarding” instead.
  • In the event that. It is so much simpler to say “if.”
  • Pursuant to your request. “As requested” says the same thing.
  • The undersigned. You are talking about yourself, so just say “I.”

Speak in correspondence (letters and emails) more like you would speak on the telephone and much less formally. Your clients and coworkers already know you are intelligent. Speaking in such a formal way doesn’t make you any more intelligent.

Ease up and be less formal so your reader doesn’t have to wade through a bunch of stuff that is unnecessary to get to your message. Make it easy for them (and you) by using less formal language in your communications.

Confused? Let’s Choose to Show We Chose the Right Word.

I keep seeing the same mistakes over and over with misusing words that are similarly spelled or are forms of other words and cause confusion.  I’ll try to make it more clear to make it easier to choose the right word.

Accept and Except – accept is to take or receive; except is to exclude.

  • She was able to accept the package for Jim. (She was able to RECEIVE the package)
  • Everyone was invited except Joe. (Joe was EXCLUDED from the invitation.)

Affect and Effect – affect is to influence or to change; effect is the result or impression or to bring about.

  • The habit of coming in late had an affect on Sally’s raise this year. (Sally’s habit of coming in late INFLUENCED her raise.)
  • The effect of the rain was a beautiful rainbow and also several accidents on the rush hour drive home. (The beautiful rainbow and the accidents were the RESULT OF the rain.)

Choose and Chose – choose means to select; chose means you have already selected.

  • She will choose her car based on its color. (She will MAKE her selection of car based on color.)
  • She chose the red car. (She already MADE the selection of the red car.)

Ensure and Insure – ensure means to make certain; insure means to protect against loss.

  • He wanted to ensure the job was done correctly. (He wanted to MAKE CERTAIN the job was done correctly.)
  • She was able to insure her sports car. (She PROTECTED her sports car.)

Gibe and Jibe – gibe means a sarcastic remark or to scoff at; jibe means to agree.

  • The gibe about her hair color was hurtful. (The SARCASTIC REMARK about her hair color was hurtful.)
  • The figures didn’t jibe between the checking account and the accounting system. (The figures didn’t AGREE between the checking account and the accounting system.)

Its and It’s – its is the possessive form of it; it’s is the contraction for it is or it has. This is particularly confusing because most possessive forms use the apostrophe, but just remember if you cannot replace your word with “it is,” then you use “its.”

  • The dog chewed up its collar. (The collar BELONGED to the dog.)
  • It’s the third collar they had to buy the puppy. (IT IS the third collar.)

Know and No – know means to understand; no means not any.

  • I now know the correct usage of it’s. (I UNDERSTAND the correct usage of it’s.)
  • He has no money to go on vacation. (He does NOT HAVE ANY money to go on vacation.)

Loose and Lose – loose means not bound or to release; lose means to suffer the loss of.

  • The dog got loose from its leash and ran out of the yard. (The dog is NOT BOUND by its leash.)
  • She was afraid she would lose her dog once it got loose. (Now that the dog is loose, she may SUFFER THE LOSS OF the dog if he does not come home.)

Their and There – their means belonging to them; there means in that place.

  • Their house is the nicest on the block. (The house BELONGING TO THEM is the nicest on the block.)
  • The car is there in the driveway. (The car is IN THAT PLACE in the driveway.)

Your and You’re – your means that it belongs to you; you’re is the contraction for you are. This one is misused by most of the people I see on Facebook who are teens or preteens and even some young adults and makes me question how they are teaching this in school.

  • I thought you said my phone was in your purse? (The purse BELONGS to you.)
  • You’re going to the movies tonight, aren’t you? (YOU ARE going to the movies.)

I will have to print this list out for my grandchildren so I don’t get the urge to comment on their Facebook status to change it for them.

I hope the some of the confusion is cleared up. Are there words that are confusing to you? Comment below or email me at proofthatblog@gmail.com.