Friday, January 4, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 2)

Continuing the series, here are two more for the discerning writer:

Visa versa

Wrong: Either we’ll stop him or visa versa.
Right: Either we’ll stop him or vice versa.

Simply put, it’s vice (rhymes with dice) versa, not “vice-a” versa—always; no exceptions.

Lay vs. lie

Wrong: I'm going to lay down for a nap.
Right: I'm going to lie down for a nap.

This one is extremely common, and caused by the fact that the past-tense of lie is lay. So here’s the breakdown:

· Today, you lie down for a nap. (You don’t lay down.)
Yesterday, you lay down for a nap. (Here’s where that confusion came about.)
Today, you lay (place) a coat on the bed, or you might lay down your life for another.
Yesterday, you laid (placed) the coat on the bed.

It’s perfectly acceptable to have your characters incorrectly use lay instead of lie, simply because many people talk that way. However, in third-person/omniscient narrative, you should use the word correctly. (In first-person narrative, because your narrator/protagonist is speaking to the reader in his/her own “voice,” you can probably get away with misusing lay.)

There are many more of these words and phrases to come, so stay tuned.


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