You’re writing along – full steam ahead – trying to get your words out into the world. You have a great idea for a blog post, and the words are just flying. You create your image – it’s perfectly branded. But, when you go back to proofread the text, you’re stuck. You look at your sentences and wonder “is that the right word?” If you’re a writer, whether it’s a blog post, content for your website, or text for the next chapter of your book, it’s just so discouraging to get hung up on decisions about grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
The English language has so many words that look and/or sound alike, it’s often difficult to know what’s right. Even if you use spell check or an old-fashioned dictionary, it’s often hard to decide what’s correct. And, writing online is especially difficult because you don’t have an editor to reread everything several times, but you know how important appearances are.
We haven’t been in English class with Miss T or Mr. J in a long time, so it’s easy to get confused.
Commonly Misused Words
(1) Regardless and Irregardless
Regardless is correct. EX: “She did it regardless of the obvious consequences.”
Irregardless is always wrong! (You have a double negative there: “ir” and “less”.)
(2) Apart and a part –
Apart is an adverb, and it means something has been separated. EX: “The child tore the wrapping apart in seconds.”
A part is a noun and means a section of the whole thing. It’s actually two words: “a” and “part,” and if you can remove the “a” from the sentence and it still makes sense, that’s the right choice. EX: “She wanted to be a part of the community.”
(3) Than and then
Than shows a comparison between two or more things: “She is taller than she used to be.”
Then relates to time: “First do this; then do that.”
(4) Apostrophes: We use them a lot, and most of the time they’re easy to figure out. But, remember: they’re only correct for two uses:
(1) in a contraction (cannot = can’t; do not = don’t), or
(2) to show possession (Jane’s dog; Michael’s car)
When you’re using a pronoun to show possession, an apostrophe is NOT used, because the pronoun itself implies possession: her book; his shoes; that car is hers; those books are theirs.
Possessive pronouns: Mine, Yours, Ours, Hers, His, Theirs
The problem usually comes around with the pronoun “it,” but it still follows the rules.
When “it” is used to show possession, there’s no apostrophe: “The book was difficult to read because its pages were torn and tattered.” If it’s a contraction, and you mean “it is” or “it has” you need that little apostrophe.
Frequent mistake: Its’ This is NEVER correct.
(5) Advice and Advise –
Advice is a noun: EX: “I need some advice, please.”
Advise is the verb: EX: “Please advise me how to proceed.”
(6) Prospective and Perspective
Prospective is an adjective meaning something in the future. EX: “I have a prospective client.” (He’s not yet a client.)
Perspective is a noun that means viewpoint or mental outlook. EX: She had a very different perspective on raising children.
There – An adverb showing position or location. EX: “She went over there to look at the red balloon.”
Their – A possessive pronoun and always followed by a noun. EX: “They lost the game because of their poor sportsmanship.”
They’re – A contraction formed from the two words they are or they were. EX: “They’re happy to be together.”
(8) Lose and Loose – These are similar in pronunciation, but different in usage.
Lose is a verb and sounds like “looz” meaning something’s missing. EX: “You can lose your keys in the dark.”
Loose is an adjective and sounds like “goose.” It means something that’s not attached. EX: “The door squeaks because the screw is loose.”
The English language can be challenging even for native English speakers. Don’t despair — you’re not alone. But, to ensure clarity and understanding, be sure to proofread carefully. (Sometimes it helps to make a cheat sheet of the words that cause you the most frustration. Add your own to this list and tack it up on your bulletin board for handy reference.)
Do these words make you scratch your head or run for spell check? Are there others that drive you crazy? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to untie the knots so you don’t “lose” your patience.