Writing Centre: Commonly Mixed Up Words
Selecting the right word when you write helps you communicate more clearly.
Many words in the English language thatpeople use can be mixed-up with
another word that sounds like it or looks similar, such as right and write,
or affect and effect.
I have listed some of the most commonly mixed up of these words, what
they mean, and how to use them correctly in a sentence.
For a list of over 800 of these words check out the Dictionary
of Same Sounding Words.
- Accept is a verb meaning to receive (I will accept your offer.)
- Except is generally used as a preposition meaning excluding (I want
all except that orange one.)
- Advice is a noun. (I need some advice.)
- Advise is a verb. (We advise you to follow these rules.)
- Affect is a verb meaning to influence. (The weather did not affect our decision to go on vacation.)
- Effect is a noun meaning result. (The weather has an effect on our moods.)
- All ready means completely prepared. (Sarah was all ready for her trip.)
- Already mean previously. (The dinner was already prepared.)
- All right is always written as two words. Alright is not standard.
- A lot is always two words.
- Among is used with three or more entities. (There was consensus among
- Between is used with two entities, (You can choose between Thai or Mexican.)
- Assure means to tell someone something is true or will happen, often
to make them less worried. (Please assure Mark
that the car will be ready for Friday.)
- Ensure means to make sure something happens. (Her reputation ensures
- Insure refers to a financial transaction where you pay money to a company
so that property is lost, stolen or damages, that the company will replace
- Complement is a verb meaning "to complete", or a noun meaning 'something
that completes. (The new teacher complements our faculty.)
- Compliment is a verb meaning 'to flatter,' or a noun meaning 'a flattering
remark'. (Our website receives many compliments.)
- Continual means 'repeated regularly and frequently.' (She grew weary of
the continual phone calls.)
- Continuous mean 'extended or prolonged without interruption. (The crying baby
made a continuous wail.)
- Criteria is the plural of criterion.
- Different than is non-standard. Write different from instead.
- Explicit means expressed directly, or clearly defined. (Susan gave explicit
instructions to the class.)
- Implicit means implied or unstated. (No comment indicates his implicit
- Good is an adjective. (Mark did a good job.)
- Well is an adverb. (Sarah writes well.)
- Its is the possessive for it. (The
dog ate its supper.)
- It's is the contraction for it is. (It's another cold day.)
is use as reflective pronoun, or as an intensifier. (I wash myself,
I will drive you there myself.)
- Principal is a noun meaning the head of a school or organization, or an
adjective most important. (Our school has a new principal.)
- Principle means a law or truth. (We believe in the principle that you are
innocent until proven guilty.)
- Shall is a legal term used to suggest duty or obligation. (The application
shall file this form by year-end.)
- Than is used in comparisons. (She is shorter than you are.)
- Then is an adverb that denotes time. (First put the key in the ignition,
then turn it.)
- That is used for restrictive clauses. (The factory that makes the
wonderful sausages is situated out of town.)
- Which is used for non-restrictive clauses. It is generally preceded by a comma.
(The Lakeshore Meat factory, which makes these wonderful sausages, is
situated out of town.
- Try and is non-standard for try to. (Try to please your mother.)
- Your is possessive pronoun. (Remember
- You're is the contraction meaning for 'you are'.
(You're getting fat.)
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