Friday, February 29, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (part 17)

Happy Leap Year Day, everyone! I can't end the month without a few more misused/misspelled words. Because we received an extra day this month, I've included an extra set of words:


Wrong: He is six feet in heighth.
Right: He is six feet in height.

This is a simple misspelling/mispronunciation, likely caused by the fact that width and depth each end with th. Height rhymes with night; it ends with a hard t sound not a th.

Inequity vs. iniquity

Wrong: He visited a den of inequity.
Right: He visited a den of iniquity.

Unless there was something unfair about that den, the correct word here is iniquity (sin or wickedness). Inequity refers to unfairness, injustice, or bias.

Alot vs. a lot vs. allot

Wrong: Thanks alot!
Right: Thanks a lot!

This is a simple spelling error. There’s no such word as alot. (And don’t confuse it with allot, which means to “parcel out” or “divvy up.”) If you dole out items frequently, you might allot a lot.

Don't worry, it won't be another four years until the next installment. 8^} Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (part 16)

Here are some more commonly confused or misused words and how to use them correctly:

Vinegarette vs. vinaigrette

Wrong: I’d like vinegarette dressing on my salad.
Right: I’d like vinaigrette dressing on my salad.

Although frequently seen, this is a simple misspelling/mispronunciation (vin-uh-ger-ETTE) of the French word vinaigrette (vin-uh-GRET or VEEN-uh-gret), based on confusion with vinegar, which is often (but not always) a principal component of the dressing.

Principal vs. principle

Wrong: He refused on principal.
Right: He refused on principle.

A principal (noun) is something or someone of foremost importance (for example, a school principal or a meeting among the principals in a transaction). It can also be used as an adjective (the principal reason for something). A principle (noun-only) is a rule of conduct or action, or a doctrine or tenet, among other meanings.

There are plenty more words of this type to go, so stay tuned for the next installment.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (part 15)

Many words are confused because of their similarity to one another. Here are a few more:

Affect vs. effect

Wrong: Inflation effects the buying power of the dollar.
Right: Inflation affects the buying power of the dollar.

Affect (verb) means to influence something or someone, as in: “It didn’t affect me at all.” It can also mean to pretend or assume. (“He affected a French accent.”) In contrast, effect—when used as a verb—means to make something happen, such as: “While in office he strove to effect change.” It goes beyond mere influence. (Effect can also be a noun referring to a result, as in: “She had a profound effect on me.”)

Adverse vs. averse

Wrong: He’s adverse to taking risks.
Right: He’s averse to taking risks.

Averse means strongly opposed, while adverse means unfavorable or even hostile. You might be averse to voting for a candidate because you think he might have an adverse effect on the economy.

More next time.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 14)

Here are some more words I frequently see confused/misused:

Diffuse vs. defuse

Wrong: We need to diffuse the situation.
Right: We need to defuse the situation.

Diffuse has a number of meanings, but all are along the lines of spread out, scatter, or disseminate. In this context, defuse means to make less dangerous, tense, or embarrassing. A bomb is capable of diffusing debris throughout a blast zone, if someone doesn’t defuse it first.

Accept vs. except

Wrong: I except your proposal.
Right: I accept your proposal.

To accept is to take or receive something or someone (accept a package or accept a person into membership), or respond affirmatively (accept an invitation). Except means to exclude (“everyone except him”), or otherwise than (“everywhere except Tokyo”). One is inclusive while the other is exclusive. You might accept someone for who they are, except for one particular foible.

More next time.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The Mars Imperative now available from

I'm not sure how long my novel, The Mars Imperative, has been on the Barnes & Noble website in trade paperback format, but I just tripped over it today.

It's been available from Amazon in trade paperback format since July, and in ebook format from since June, but this is the first time I'm seen it on (Every little bit helps, right?)


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 13)

There are many words, phrases and punctuation that I see misused all the time. Here are some more:


Wrong: I have ton’s of homework to do.
Right: I have tons of homework to do.

People frequently use apostrophes with plurals. This is incorrect. Plurals never require an apostrophe before the trailing s. Say tons of scrap iron, a box full of toasters, ABCs, or the 1920s (‘20s, for short). But please don't say lot's of cookies or penny's from Heaven (unless she really is).

Baited vs. bated

Wrong: I waited with baited breath.
Right: I waited with bated breath.

Do your friends call you “fish-breath”? If not, then you wait with bated breath, which means “reduced, lessened, lowered in force.” The expression bated breath (using a short form of abated) refers to how someone almost stops breathing through awe, terror, anxiety, or extreme anticipation. Perhaps you waited with bated breath as he baited the hook.

Think we're almost done? Not a chance. I suspect we'll be well up over a hundred such gaffes before I run out. More next time....


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 12)

It's amazing just how many common words are frequently misused not only by casual writers, but sometimes even by professionals. Here are some more:

It’s vs. its

Wrong: Its over here.
Right: It’s over here.

It’s means “it is,” while its denotes ownership, as in “The dog? We’re looking for its owner.” They’re easy enough to keep straight. Ask yourself, “Do I mean ‘it is’ here?” If not, use its.

Alright vs. all right

Wrong: Are you feeling alright?
Right: Are you feeling all right?

Alright is a nonstandard spelling and shouldn’t be used—ever (“The Who” song, The Kids are Alright, notwithstanding). All right is the correct spelling.

There are plenty more where these came from. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 11)

Continuing my series of blog, here are some more words I frequently see misused:

Farther vs. further

Wrong: You have further to walk than I do.
Right: You have farther to walk than I do.

Use farther when referring to distance (“It’s farther to my house than to yours.”) If no form of distance is involved, use further. (“We’re further along in the process than I expected.)

Mute vs. moot

Wrong: That’s a mute point.
Right: That’s a moot point.

Unless you’re making the point silently, it’s moot, not mute. Unfortunately, even when many people use the correct phrase, they use it incorrectly, as if it means “no longer important.” A moot point is one that’s debatable, not irrelevant. Law schools typically have a Moot Court, for students to hone their courtroom debating skills.

I have plenty of other words to go, so keep checking back.