More Misused (and Mistreated) Words

by | Mar 16, 2008 | Grammar and Usage, Proofreading | 1 comment

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You’ve seen our list of the top 20 misused words, as identified by our expert proofreaders at Writer’s Relief. Now read on to learn how to avoid more common spelling errors and definition confusion.

Altogether or all together
altogether
(adv): entirely, completely
all together (as a phrase): in a group

Amount or number
amount
(n): used for a quantity that can’t be counted
number (n): used for things that can be counted

Bored or bored
bore and bored
(v): to dig or drill
bear and bore (v): to carry

Breach or breech
breach
(n, v): a break / to break
breech (n): the rear or bottom

Clench or clinch
clench
(v): to hold or clutch, like teeth or a fist
clinch (v): to settle decisively, as in clinching a deal, or to tightly hug, like with boxing

Demur or demure
demur
(n, v): a protest / to protest
demure (adj): to be coy, modest

Discreet or discrete
discreet
(adj): judicious, modest
discrete (adj): separate, distinct

Enervate or energize
enervate
(adj, trans. v): lazy, lacking physical energy
energize (v): to be energetic

Gibe or jibe
gibe
(n, v): to tease, or a derisive remark
jibe (v): to agree

Inter or intern
inter
(v): to bury
intern (v): to jail

Lead or led
lead
(v): present tense, to guide the way
led (v): past tense

(Don’t laugh; many, many writers use “lead” for the past tense because it sounds like the other “lead,” the metal.)

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Mantel or mantle
mantel
(n): a shelf
mantle (n): a cloak, a cover

Plead or pleaded
plead
(v): present tense, to beg
pleaded (or pled) (v): past tense (in the similar vein to lead/led)

Principal or principle
principal
(adj, n): referring to a person or something which is of high rank
principle (n): related to a law or doctrine

Raise or rise
raise
(v): to lift something (transitive: requires a direct object, such as He raised the blanket from the floor.)
rise (v): to put oneself in an upright position (intransitive: no direct object needed, such as He rises in the morning at six o’clock.)

Rational or rationale
rational
(adj): reasonable or logical
rationale (n): underlying reason

Shined or shone
shined
(v): past tense, to make something brighter, like shoes or a bald head.
shone (v): past tense of all other uses of “shine” (such as The moonlight shone over our nighttime walk last night.)

Other words you might find confusing:

Fitful. Definition: full of fits and starts. It does not mean restful or “fit” as in healthy or good. So if you’re editing or proofreading, watch for “a fitful sleep”—it is often the opposite of what the author means.

Reticent. Definition: silent, tacit, not spoken. It has nothing to do with being reluctant.

Tortuous. Definition: twisted, winding. Something tortuous MIGHT also be torturous (notice the extra “r”), but only if the torture relates to how winding or twisted the torture is, literally or figuratively.

Viscous (vis-kus). Definition: how thick, or not, a liquid is; vicious is, well, vicious (dangerously aggressive).

REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT OUR LIST OF WRITING CONTESTS and ANTHOLOGIES! You won’t find a better list anywhere (AND IT’S FREE!) of upcoming anthologies, special-themed journals, and contests. Find it by visiting:
http://www.writersreliefblog.com/post/Anthologies-Contests

1 Comment

  1. Edmund Jonah

    The most mistreated words I know are also and only. Example:

    I only want to see the sights – which suggests no one else does. It should be: I want only to see the sights.

    Reply

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