Using the right word series: You get an A

I’m sure this has happened to you. You’re typing away, thoughts flowing easily out of your brain onto the screen. Suddenly, you stop dead, not sure if the word you just typed is the right word.

Do you keep going and come back to figure it out later? Grab your trusty dictionary and look it up now?

Either way, it must be dealt with. Using the wrong word can change the meaning of a sentence and confuse your reader. It can even lead to occassional embarrassment.

Not. Cool.

With that in mind, this is the first in a series of posts clearing up words that are often confused and used incorrectly. Strap in! We’re starting with the A’s.

Accept, except

Accept means to receive or admit; except means to exclude.

Nancy was accepted to Harvard University.

Bob ate all the fruit except the bananas.

Adverse, averse

Adverse means unfavorable, usually referring to a thing or action; averse means opposed to or reluctant, usually referring to a person.

Nancy faced adverse conditions while walking to work in December.

Bob was averse to cold temperatures.

Affect, effect

This one confuses even the best writers (including me). Here goes.

Affect used as a verb means to influence someone or something; effect used as a noun is a result of that influence.

The movie affected Nancy to the point of tears.

The movie had a strange effect on Bob.

Here’s a trick to remember this rather difficult pair of words: affect = Action, and effect = rEsults. In most cases, this little trick will help you use the correct word.

Now, just to throw a wrench into the whole thing, affect can be used as a noun to mean an emotional display; effect can be used as a verb to mean to bring something about.

Missy saw the same movie without affect.

Technology has effected the transition from rotary phones to cell phones.

If you really can’t decide which is the correct word, you might try to rewrite the sentence so you don’t have to use either one. Cheating? Perhaps.

Let’s get back to some less complicated words, shall we?

All ready, already

All ready means a state of complete readiness; already expresses time as an adverb.

Nancy was all ready to go out for the night.

Bob had already passed the intersection.

All right, alright

All right refers to an agreeable state or safety; alright is not standard usage and should not be used. Tricked ya there.

Whatever Bob decides is all right with me.

Allot, a lot, alot

Allot means to distribute as a share; a lot means a large number; alot means nothing. Don’t use it.

Nancy will allot the tickets to her sisters.

Bob has a lot of baseball cards.

Altogether, all together

Altogether means in all or all told; All together refers to a gathering of people or things.

Altogether, they won only two races.

The employees ran the race all together.

Allude, elude

When you allude to something, you make an indirect reference to it; elude means to escape from a person or situation.

Bob alluded to the fact that he had a crush on Nancy.

Nancy eluded Bob for days.

Allusion, illusion

Again, an allusion is an indirect reference to something; an illusion is a misconception.

Bob told Nancy he thought she was pretty, an allusion to his feelings for her.

Nancy has no illusion about how difficult it will be to put Bob off for long.

Any way, anyway

Any way means in any manner; anyway means in any case or nevertheless.

Nancy will get the job done in any way possible.

Even though he had a cold, Bob went to work anyway.

Assure, ensure, insure

This one’s fun. Assure means to put someone’s mind at ease; ensure means to guarantee; insure means to provide insurance for something.

The agent assured Bob that insuring his house would ensure he would be covered if there was a fire.

A while, awhile

Another tricky one. Most of the time, if you see the word for before this word, the appropriate usage is a while. The word awhile is an adverb meaning for a while. Fun, huh!

Nancy waited for a while.

Bob waited awhile.

Hope that clears up some confusion. If you struggle with any of these words, tell me about it in the comments. Until the next installment of this series, keep your dictionary close at hand.

And don’t forget to follow this blog so you won’t miss a thing!





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