If you’re an author, you most likely have a top-notch editor to clean up your copy before it goes to print. But what about everything else — query letters, your website, or your blog? As writers, our credibility is on the line every time we put words in print (casual convos with BFFs excluded, of course). Therefore, choosing the right word is critical.
Here are 5 commonly misused word pairs. If you struggle with any of these, perhaps this quick tutorial will be helpful.
Loose — with two o’s — means not tight.
Lose — with only one o — means misplaced, or not found.
If you need more than dry definitions, perhaps a simple rhyming technique can help:
The noose is loose.
Loose rhymes with goose, and lose does not.
Affect, beginning with an a, is almost always a verb, meaning to have an effect on.
Great art always affects.
Effect, beginning with an e, is almost always a noun, meaning a result, or an outcome.
Electric lights create an exciting effect.
Perhaps it would be helpful to remember that the phrase cause and effect (the latter being a noun) is generally recognizable, but cause and affect just looks wrong. That’s because it is.
Abuses of this pair are most commonly seen in supermarket express lanes. While “10 Items or Less” may roll off the tongue more smoothly than “10 Items or Fewer” it’s grammatically incorrect.
Less means “not so much” and refers to a total amount, or a quantity.
Fewer means “not so many” and refers to a countable, or measurable number.
So, basically, if you can count it, use fewer; if you’re comparing amounts, your word is less.
There are fewer than 50 people at the meeting, which is less of a crowd than last week.
Similar to less and fewer,
Farther is used when measuring a physical distance, as in:
How much farther do we have to drive?
Further is used when speaking of an extension of time or degree, as in:
She made it further on American Idol than the dude with bad hair.
Insure with an i is only used for insurance — the kind you buy for your car, home, or life.
Ensure with an e means to guarantee.
I’ll cover more pesky pairs in future posts. Which ones do you struggle with the most?