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37 Most Common Misspelled Or Misused English Words!

shutterstock 37 Most Common Misspelled Or Misused English Words!

Guy Kawasaki even has publicly admitted that no matter how many times you read your book or how many editors review it, chances are there will be a few errors that you miss.

It’s one thing to have a few errors here and there; it’s a completely different one to have a book trifled with obvious grammatical errors.

One of the biggest challenges for people who are writing books and who didn’t go to writing or journalism school are words that sound alike, but have very different meaning.

The reality is that if you want to use a book as a way to boost your authority, credibility and influence, you’ll want to be careful of grammatical errors because they could turn off your audience.

Hiring an editor and a proofreader is essential if you want to publish a quality book as a self-published author. It’s true that if you get a book deal, your publisher will take care of getting your book professionally edited, but I still firmly believe that as authors, we need to master the basics of good written English.

As I was writing my books, I realized that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings and if you spend enough time on social media, you’ll notice that a lot of people aren’t aware they’re misusing or misspelling words.

In order to help more self-published authors become better at editing their own books, I’ve compiled a list of 37 common misspelled or misused English words and added the correct spelling and a short explanation so as to give you more control on the quality of your writing!

37 Common Misspelled Or Misused Words:

1. Accept and Except

To “accept” is a verb. It has several meanings:

a. To hold something as true. Here’s an example: “I accept she may have been tired, but that’s still no excuse.”

b. To receive something willingly. Here’s an example: “I accept this award on behalf of the whole cast.”

The word “except” is most commonly seen as a preposition.  However, it can also be used a conjunction and very occasionally as a verb. Here’s a great quote that clearly shows how to properly use the word “except”: “I can resist everything except temptation.  (Oscar Wilde)

2. Affect vs. Effect

Affect is a verb that means, “to influence”.  A good example is: “your ability to deeply relate to your clients will affect your authority”

Effect has a completely different meaning. Effect is a noun and refers to “result” or “the result of.” A good example is: “the effect of junk foods on our youth is devastating”

Effect can also be a verb and in that case, it means “to bring about”, “to cause”, or “to achieve”. A good example is: “You will effect these changes on Monday.”

Here’s another example that puts both words in the same sentence: “A situation may AFFECT you, while someone might have a huge EFFECT on you”.

2. All Right vs. Alright

I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t realize people misspelled “all right” and used “alright” instead. As I was doing this research, I found out that people use “alright” in their day-to-day conversations like so many people write on email as if they were texting. Alright is incorrect.

Alright is the lazy man’s all right. You should do your best to refrain from using “alright” in your day-to-day life in terms of writing. It’s and not widely accepted in the grammar world (even though it isn’t even corrected anymore with spell check). However, say it aloud however you like. It doesn’t really make much difference in that regard.

Easy way to remember: “Alright” is not all right.

3. A Lot or Alot

It’s simple, if you’re writing “alot” in a text, then you’re automatically making a mistake. It’s pretty much black & white.

The phrase “a lot” (when used as a noun) means “a large extent, a large amount, or a large number.” Even as an adverb, it means “to a great extent.”

This is a simple rule to remember, a lot is ALWAYS spelled in two words!

4. Anyway vs. Anyways

This is an easy one, there isn’t a “s” at the end of “anyway”.

5. Assume vs. Presume

To “assume” something means that you suppose it to be true, especially without proof. When you “presume”, however, you are taking something for granted as being true because there is no evidence to the contrary.

Basically, you are smarter to “presume” than “assume”.

6. Appose vs. Oppose

These two spellings originally meant the same thing, but now they have different meanings:

a. “appose” means to place side by side or in close proximity

b. “oppose” means the following:

* be against; express opposition to

* fight against or resist strongly

* contrast with equal weight or force

* set into opposition or rivalry

7. Blond vs. Blonde

This word derives from French, which means it has masculine and feminine forms. Quite simply, “blond” refers to a man, and “blonde”refers to a woman.

8. Breath vs. Breathe

“Breath” is a noun referring to the air coming in or going out of the lungs.“Breathe” is a verb referring to “the act of inhaling and exhaling.” It’s not complicated, yet the two words are often confused with one another when written.

9. Capital vs. Capitol

“Capital” refers to money and “capitol” represents the buildings and monuments that represent the country.

10. Compliment vs. Complement

“Compliment” is something nice someone one says about you to which you’d normally respond “thanks”.

“Complement” is something that adds to or supplements something else. A good example is: “this scarf complements the colour of this dress”.

11. Could of vs.Could have

This is another tricky word combination because we usually pronounce “could of” as opposed to “could of” when we speak.

The problem is that when you’re writing, you need to use “could have” instead of  “could of”, as the latter is grammatically incorrect.

The same applies to should have (NOT should of) and would have (NOT would of), which are the correct ways of writing.

That said, you can legitimately contract these words. You can use could’ve, would’ve or should’ve!

12. Disinterested vs. Uninterested

If someone is disinterested, it means that they are “impartial or unbiased about something”. However, if they are uninterested, it means that they simply “have no interest in it.”

Here’s a good example: “A judge need be disinterested, but never uninterested”.

13. Definitely or Definately

Definitely doesn’t have an “a”. You might pronounce it with an “a” when you speak, but when you write it there should be only two vowels: “e” and “i”!

14. e.g. vs. i.e.

Although neither of these are words, they are both used incorrectly quite often. “e.g.” stands for the Latin exempli gratia, or “for example”.“i.e.” is Latin for id est, meaning “that is.” Therefore, you only use it if you are giving the only example(s) to qualify your statement.

Here’s a good example: “The photo was signed by the last surviving ‘Golden Girl,’ i.e., Betty White”.

15. Elicit and Illicit

The verb “elicit” means to call forth or bring out. The adjective “illicit” means unlawful or not permitted.

Here’s a good example to understand the meaning of each word: “the song elicited deep emotions, but the illicit lyrics kept it from pop stardom.”

16. Farther vs. Further

The word farther refers to “a physical distance,” while further simply means “more”. You could also think of it as “an extension of time or degree”.

Here’s a good example:

“How much farther do we have to go?”

“It’s just a mile further.”

17. Fewer or Less

“Fewer” refers to quantities you can count, such as items in your shopping cart, while “less” refers to quantities you can’t count, such as a liquid.

Obviously, you can measure amounts of a liquid, but not if you are just drinking it out of a bottle.

For instance, you’d ask someone for “less” soda if they gave you too much, not “fewer” soda. On the flip side, you’d ask for “fewer” apples instead of “less” apples.

How to test? “10 items or less” should really be “10 items or fewer.” Don’t even get us started on “greater than or less than.”

18. Imply vs. Infer

To “imply” is to express something indirectly.

To “infer” is to surmise or conclude, especially from indirect evidence.

Here’s a good example to understand both:

Thus, what a writer may imply, a reader may infer.”

(Adrienne Robins, The Analytical Writer: A College Rhetoric, 2nd ed. Collegiate Press, 1996)

writing tips 37 Most Common Misspelled Or Misused English Words!

19. Insolate vs. Insulate

To “insulate” something means to enclose it in something that holds in heat, sound, or electricity. It can also mean to generally protect or isolate a person or thing.

To “insolate” something means to expose it to sunlight.

20. Irregardless

Please, stop using irregardless. Yes, it is technically in the dictionary, but it’s listed as non-standard, which means it’s in wide use, but not proper. You should be using “regardless of” instead.

21. Its vs. It’s

Its is possessive, much like “my” or “your.” It means “belonging to it.” A good example would be: “this course has its merit.”

It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has.” A good example would be: “it’s a chair”.

Here’s an easy way to remember the difference: If the word you are trying to say isn’t short for “it is” or “it has,” then the word is most likely “its” with no apostrophe.

22. Judgement or Judgment

Judgement is British spelling. Although, Brits were also using “judgment”, judgement has gained ground over the last couple of centuries and is now nearly as common as judgment.

Americans and Canadians tend to use judgment more.

23. Lay vs. Lie

The English verbs “lay” and “lie” are commonly confused by even native English speakers.

a. “Lay” is a transitive verb, which means that it must be used with a direct object. The past tense and the past participle of lay are both laid.

Here’s a good example: “Please lay the books on the table”.

b. “Lie” is an intransitive verb, which means it cannot have a direct object. The past tense of lie is lay and the past participle is lain.

Here’s a good example: “I just want to lie in bed all day”.

c. “Lie” (past tense lied) means to say something untrue.

Here’s a good example: “Don’t lie to me”.

24. Lose vs. Loose

This is another tricky combo.

“Lose”means the opposite of winning or it can mean misplacing something. Here is a good example: “Did you lose your glasses?”

“Loose” means not tight enough. Here is a good example: “these jeans are too loose”.

25. Literally or Figuratively

We’ve gotten a little annoying as a society with the word literally.

Most people use “literally” in sentences when they should be using figuratively.

“Literally” means EXACTLY what you say is true.

So the next time you’re hungry and say “I could literally eat a whole cow”, that means you actually would eat a cow.The word we are looking for most of the time is figuratively, which means metaphorically or as a figure of speech.

Perhaps using “figuratively” might be a better way of saying it – “I could figuratively eat a whole cow”.

26. Maybe vs. May be

This is a common mistake made by people learning English and sometimes native speakers too!

The simplest explanation is:

Maybe = perhaps
May be = is possibly

Here’s an example combining both: “Maybe” it will stop raining soon and we “may be” able to have our picnic on the deck.

27. Me, Myself and I

To check if you should use “me” or “I” when you need a pronoun to complete a group, ask yourself if it sounds correct when you remove the other noun or pronoun.

Here are a few examples:

Ex. #1 Justin and me saw dolphins in Bahamas. (Incorrect)

This example is incorrect. If you removed Justin from the sentence, it would read “me” saw dolphins.

The sentence should read: Justin and “I” saw dolphins in Bahamas. (Correct)

Ex. #2 The Parker twins splashed water on Tina and I. (Incorrect)

This example is incorrect; you would not say the Parker twins water on “I”. “I” should be replaced by “me”.

Ex. #2 The Parker twins splashed water on Tina and me. (Correct)

“Myself” is only proper two ways:

28. Non-fiction, non fiction, nonfiction

You’ll notice “non fiction” written in 3 different ways on the Internet. I referred to my literary mentor on this one and the proper spelling is “non fiction” – two words and no hyphen.

29. Principal vs. Principle

“Principal” means the highest in rank. As an adjective it means the most important on a set.

“Principle” is a noun meaning a fundamental truth, law or standard.

30. Prospective vs. Perspective

“Prospective” is an adjective meaning 1. likely to happen, or 2. likely to become.

Here’s a great example: “Some of the best preparation for the interview occurs when you research the prospective employer”.

“Perspective” is almost always a noun. It refers to 1. a view, 2. the angle from which something is viewed, and 3. the proper appearance of objects in relation to each other.

Here’s a great example: “From a fan’s perspective, it was a great game to watch”.

31. Than vs. Then

As a rule, “then” is an adverb signifying time.

How to test?Then and when rhyme, and both refer to time.

“Than”is used to compare two things. A good example is: Tom is older than James.

32.Their, There, They’re and There’re

This is one of those really tricky ones for people learning to speak English and even for people who have been speaking English since birth.

Let’s break it down:

a. “Their” is possessive and often related to an object belonging to others. A good example would be: “I went to their house in Rome.”

How to test? Replace “their” with “our”.

b. “There” is referring to a location. A good example would be: “I’ll be there this afternoon.”

How to test? Replace “there” with “here”.

c. “They’re”is a contraction for “they are”. A good example would be: “They’re coming to the party later on.”

How to test? Replace “they’re” with “they are”.

d.“There’re” is another contraction of there are.

Here’s an example:

Q: “Do you have any towels?”

A: “Yes, there are some in the closet.”

Contraction: “Yes, there’re some in the closet.”

Easy way to remember: We don’t think you’ll forget. These words, particularly their and there, are just easily mixed up if typing too quickly. Just make sure to slow down and double check.

33. Through vs. Threw 

Threw is the past tense of the verb “throw”. Here’s a great example: “Gina threw the ball to her team-mate”.

Through is never used as a verb: Here’s a great example: “I can’t believe all that Dina has been through this year.”

34. To vs. Too

“Too” means also or a lot of something.Here’s an example: “the couch is too big to fit through the door.”

If you remember the meaning of “too,” then “to” becomes easier to distinguish.

35. Your vs. You’re

“Your” is possessive pronoun. You’d use it to express something belongs to you. A good example is: “your car”.

While You’re is a contraction for “you are.” A good example is: “you’re driving your car”.

36. Weather vs. Whether

“Weather” refers to the temperature. You turn on the television to determine the “weather”.

“Whether” introduces choices: I don’t know “whether” to laugh or cry.

37. Weird or “Wierd”

The best way to remember how to spell weird, is to remember the order of the alphabet –“e” come before “i”!

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