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Odds and Ends—More Confusing Words

Than or then? Let’s or lets? When you’re proofreading your novel, short story, essay, or poem, keep an eye out for these and other tricky words and phrases that often cause confusion for writers:

Than versus Then

“Than” is a conjunction and is used in making comparisons:

I would rather eat a banana than a kiwi.

“Then” is an adverb relating to time:

We’ll catch the train then meet at the library downtown.

Let’s versus Lets

“Let’s” is a contraction for “let us,” and “lets” is a verb, meaning to allow or permit:

Let’s hope he lets us bring our notes.

If versus Whether

“If” refers to one possibility; “whether” refers to more than one possibility.

I don’t know if he wants to go with us. He’ll have to decide whether he wants to get a ride or meet there later.

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Infer versus Imply

“Infer” means to draw a conclusion.

The readers inferred that the article was meant to draw attention to the refugees’ plight.

“Imply” means to suggest or hint.

The article implied that aloe vera can decrease scarring due to burns.

Compared To versus Compared With

“Compared to” is used when pointing out similarities:

My tuna casserole was compared to a science fair experiment gone bad.

“Compared with” is used to point out differences:

My casserole was delicious compared with the slop the others brought.

So there you have it: Mystery solved. No more worrying about than versus then, let’s versus lets, if versus whether, infer versus imply, or compared to versus compared with. Writer’s Relief proofreaders have been working with writers to straighten out these kinds of grammar errors since 1994. Read more about Misused and Mistreated Words.

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