Because we found our list of commonly mistaken words for content creators so much fun, we decided to continue the trends with another list. This time, we have a list of homonyms and frequently misunderstood words. These are words that many people often confuse or about which they ask for clarification. This is by no means an exhaustive list and it’s not expected that every single one of these be memorized. The entire point of this list is to increase awareness of these common mix-ups and to be more mindful of them in the future.
Accept – to receive.
Except – to exclude.
Adverse –(adj.) moving in the opposite direction, in opposition to.
Averse – (adj.) opposed to or unwilling to.
Affect – (n.) best to avoid; means to describe an emotion or psychological phenomena. (v.) to influence; (ex.) The long holiday weekend affected our call volume for the month.
Effect – (n.) means result; (ex.) The effect from last Tuesday’s Power Lunch was outstanding. (v.) to cause; (ex.) Lew Levey effected many changes during his tenure as CEO of Computime.
Among – involves more than two entities or items being compared or discussed; (ex.) There have been complaints among the Accounting, Sales, and Warehouse departments.
Between – involves only two; (ex.) There was a meeting yesterday between the team coaches and the call center representatives.
Anxious – nervous or apprehensive; think of being filled with anxiety.
Eager – enthusiastic, excited about an event or the current situation.
Begs the question – to evade the issue by using an example or response that proves your side of the argument. Does NOT mean that the problem requires (begs) a question to be raised.
Biannual – twice a year.
Biennial – every other year.
Biweekly – every other week.
Semiweekly – twice a week.
Can – (v.) implies ability to perform a task or to fulfill an obligation.
May – (v.) implies permission to perform a task or to fulfill an obligation.
Compliment – praise; (ex.) Nicole did a great job organizing the photo shoot.
Complement – that which completes or help supplement something.
Compose – to create, invent, or put together.
Comprise – includes or contains what is needed.
Constitute – a good alternative to the first two if neither of them fit; (ex.) The departments of accounting, sales, warehouse, and post sales support constitute Computime.
Demolish, Destroy – Both mean to do away with something completely. Something cannot be partially demolished or destroyed. It is also redundant to say totally demolished or totally destroyed.
Discreet – to be careful, cautious, to behave appropriately.
Discrete – distinctly separate, detached and apart from each other.
(This distinction applies also to indiscreet/indiscrete).
Disinterested – means impartial.
Uninterested – means to lack interest. You want a disinterested judge at your trial, not an uninterested one.
Each other, one another – Two people look at each other. More than two people look at one another. Either may be used when the number is indefinite; (ex.) We help each other. We help one another.
Either – means or the other, not both; (ex.) You may place your lunch in either refrigerator in the break room, is correct. There’s a projector in either of the conference rooms, is incorrect. To correct, say there’s a projector in each of the conference rooms.
Either or, neither nor – The nouns that follow these words do not constitute a compound subject; they are alternate subjects and require a verb that agrees with the nearer subject; (ex.) Neither they nor he is going. Neither he nor they are going.
Enormity – NOT something that is merely large, but something of great and monstrous wickedness. (ex.) The enormity of Keith breaking the dial record for the day, is wrong. But, the enormity of the events on Sept. 11, is correct.
Ensure – means to guarantee, to confirm.
Insure – use only in references to insurance or insurance companies.
Farther – a measurable distance; (ex.) The drive to Computime was farther from my house than I thought.
Further – a more figurative or metaphorical distance of time or degree; (ex.) I asked Alex to conduct further research into the use of Snapstream.
Fewer – use for individual items, items that can be counted; (ex.) We had fewer people attend training this month compared with last month.
Less- use for bulk or quantity; (ex.) We had less coffee than yesterday.
Flier – preferred term for an aviator or a pamphlet.
Flyer – the proper name of some trains or buses, or means an object that actually flies.
Forego – to precede or to go before.
Forgo – to do without.
Historic – a unique moment in history that stands out in the flow of events.
Historical – pretty much anything that happened a long time ago.
Imply – Writers or speakers imply in the words they use.
Infer – Readers or listeners infer something from the words.
In – indicates location; (ex.) The CEO is in his office.
Into – indicates motion; (ex.) The CEO just walked into his office.
Ingenious – clever, creative, or imaginative.
Ingenuous – innocent, unaffected, natural.
Nauseated – feeling ill or sick to one’s stomach.
Nauseous – capable of making others feel ill or sick to the stomach.
Passed – (v.) past participle of pass; (ex.) The opportunity had passed.
Past – (adj.) (ex.) I’ve been working at CMS Solutions for the past two years.
Principal – (n. or adj.) someone or something of high importance or of first rank.
Principle – (n.) a basic truth, belief, or standard of conduct.
Rack - (v.) to arrange on a rack or to torture .
Rack - (n.) applies to various types of shelves or framework.
Wrack - (v.) same meaning as “rack”, but latter is preferred.
Wrack - (n.) ruin or destruction, typically used in the phrase “wrack and ruin”.
Rifle – (v.) to plunder or to steal.
Riffle – (v.) to leaf rapidly through a book or pile of papers.
Shall – use to express determination; (ex.) We shall break our sales goals this year.
Will – for second and third constructions, unless determination is stressed; (ex.) You will break your sales goals this year.
Either word is acceptable when using first-person constructions that don’t emphasize determination; (ex.) We shall attend a trade show this year. We will attend a trade show this year.
Unique – one of a kind, so it’s not correct to use a degree or modifier for this word (such as very or incredibly).