Friday, January 18, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 7)

Here are some more words I see misused frequently:

Amongst vs. among, whilst vs. while, and amidst vs. amid vs. midst

These are easy. If you write in British English, use the versions that end in st. If American English, drop the st. (On the other hand, as an alternative to amid, “in the midst of” is acceptable American English.)

Burned vs. burnt, dreamed vs. dreamt, spilled vs. spilt

This may sound like the same scenario as the previous one—one set of words being British English and the other being American English—but that’s not quite true. According to my American dictionaries, burned and burnt are synonymous, as are dreamed and dreamt. So, feel free to use whichever sounds better to you in context. (Dreamt might sound more lyrical in a poem, for example.) On the other hand, burned and burnt can be used as both a verb (“I burned the toast.”) and an adjective (“The toast is burnt.”) I prefer to use burned for the verb and reserve burnt for the adjective, but that’s personal choice. As for spilled vs. spilt, again my dictionaries call them synonyms. In practice, however, I find that Yanks generally use spilled and Brits use spilt.

Until next time.


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