We like to think that we have a solid grasp on the English language and that our writing is flawless. But with so many exceptions to rules and confusing homonyms, it’s not surprising that we get mixed up on occasion. Many word processing programs have features that can check for misspellings, grammatical miscues and even punctuation errors, but they are not fool-proof. How do we ensure that we are using proper spelling, punctuation and grammar? At the end of the day, it comes down to proofing your content and then proofing it again.
How many times have you received a piece of mail, read a brochure or perused a website and noticed improper word choice or poor grammar? Mistakes in your written communications can negatively impact your business message and the way your audience views your business, especially when it comes to word choice. Let’s take a look at how correct word choice can grammatically improve your life by reviewing some commonly misused words.
Farther vs. Further
Farther refers to a physical distance.
Further refers to figurative distance.
Examples: Your office is farther away than my office. Our time on this project can go no further.
Affect vs. Effect
In most situations, we use affect as a verb and effect as a noun, but there are exceptions.
As a verb, affect means to change something.
As a noun, an affect is an emotion or desire that influences one’s behavior
Examples: Our products can positively affect your life. When the writer noticed his spelling error, his affect was quick and unsettling.
As a verb, effect means to cause something to happen.
As a noun, an effect is a change that was caused as a result of something.
Examples: The actions taken have effected positive changes in their social media strategy. Proper word choice can have a profound effect.
Disburse vs. Disperse
Disburse means to distribute or give out.
Disperse means to break up or spread in all directions.
Examples: Shall we disburse our brochures during the event? We need to disperse the team on the trade show floor.
Allusion vs. Illusion
Allusion means an indirect reference.
Illusion means a misconception or false impression.
Examples: Did you catch my allusion to the benchmarking report? Mirrors give the room an illusion of depth.
Elicit vs. Illicit
Elicit is a verb meaning to bring out or coax.
Illicit is an adjective meaning unlawful.
Examples: Our email is designed to elicit responses. The firm is under investigation regarding illicit practices.
Capital vs. Capitol
Capital refers to a city or resources.
Capitol refers to a building where lawmakers meet.
Examples: Austin is the state capital of Texas. The Texas capitol was built in 1888.
Discreet vs. Discrete
Discreet means careful or cautious.
Discrete means separate or distinct
Examples: The reporter made discreet inquiries about the new product launch. Data from three discrete but important areas are presented in the first chart.
Adverse vs. Averse
Adverse means unfavorable or harmful.
Averse means a strong feeling of distaste or opposition.
Examples: The adverse effects of the hostile takeover still linger today. The company was not averse to taking on risk.
How many of these words have you been misusing? I hope this short but useful list finds itself properly attached to your desk, cubicle, or wall!
Looking for more tips on grammar, correct word choice, spelling and punctuation? Be sure to visit these two articles: