34 Words Authors Get Confused

Updated on September 17, 2016
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

I am an avid reader as well as an editor. Over and over in both capacities, I see where authors use words incorrectly. In fact, they tend to be same words over and over again. Here are a few that I have found recently.


This ones gets me quite often myself. When I’m typing I just use the first one that comes into my head as I’m too focused on the idea of the sentence instead of the words within the sentence. But when editing my work or someone else, I better get it right.

Affect is a noun. Effect is a verb. It’s that simple. Now to remember that…..


I will admit that this is not one I’ve seen a lot of, there are some people who mix them. I can see it happening in the heat of writing, but when you go back over your work, you need to notice that these two are not the same.

Troupe is a group of entertainers. Troop is a group of military members or it is a verb describing how someone is walking.


I admit it. I mix these two up all the time, and I have no idea why. My fingers and my brain don’t always work right and not always together.

Mute is silence, no sound, unable to speak.

Moot means obsolete.

The TV was on mute, but the argument we had is now moot.


I have to admit that this word has been around me my whole life that it never ever dawned on me that it is not a real word. Everyone used it. But technically, the word is not real and used incorrectly.

Regardless means “heedless, careless”. He jumped through the door regardless of what might be on the other side. Now let’s look at irregardless.

Putting ‘ir’ in front of a word gives it the reverse meaning. Irreconcilable means something cannot be reconciled or mended. So, irregardless means not careless or heedless so cautious and wise, I’d say.

He jumped through the door irregardless of what might be on the other side.

When we hear this, it sounds like it was meant to sound with the first time we used this sentence with ‘regardless’. But in reality it tells us that he jumped through the door mindful of what was on the other side. It doesn’t really mean what we take it as.

That being said, does the fact that we use the word incorrectly and most everyone reads it the same say though it is incorrect make the word the equivalent of ‘regardless’ ? Linguistically no, but culturally we change the meaning of words. This could become one of them.


These two words are so close to being identical that many think they are and use them as such. But they are not the same.

Allusion is “an implied or indirect reference especially in literature...the act of making an indirect reference to something : the act of alluding to something” per Webster. I can allude to the secret I know without really telling you about it or even that I know one.

An illusion is “something that looks or seems different from what it is : something that is false or not real but that seems to be true or real...an incorrect idea : an idea that is based on something that is not true”. I created an illusion so you didn’t know I was lying to you.

An allusion is a hint. An illusion is a lie. Well, that’s my base definitions.


Yes, even when I’m typing fast I mix these two up. It is easy to do as there is just one letter difference between them.

Capital is an adjective. For example, it can be a capital offense or a capital idea. But if you want to talk politics, you use capitol.

Do you get confused by these words?

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I remember these based on something my teacher said to me in fifth grade. Your principal should be your pal so the one to use when describing the person who runs a school is the one with ‘pal’ in it - principal. Therefore if you are looking for the principle idea of a political party you are using ‘ple’ to find that main idea. Get it?


They sound very much alike. They look very similar. No wonder we mix them up. When you elicit, you are gathering information or a reaction from someone or something. I can elicit a volatile reaction from you if I bring up a particular topic. But if I my name comes up with yours in some illicit act, we’re both in trouble as that would be illegal or immoral.


These two get people all the time, even well educated ones at times. I think that is because we are typing so fast that our mind knows what we want to say but the fingers mishear it. Plus, the definitions are very close.

When you emigrate, you are leaving this country to go to another one to live. When you immigrate, you are coming into this country. Try to remember that when you come in, the ‘i’ represents immigrate.


Oh, words that look so much alike and sound alike at times can get you into big trouble. Technically speaking these two words sound nothing alike until you get people to open their mouths. Add accents and lazy speech and they sound identical, but they are not.

Than is a comparison word. You would rather go to the baseball game than the lecture.

Then is a timeframe word. You can go to the mall then you can go to your friend’s house.


Many people get these two words mixed up. They mean the same thing yet they cannot be used interchangeably.

You can lie down on the couch, but you cannot lay the pencil on the table. The ‘lie’ applies to people. The ‘lay’ applies to objects.


Are we going farther or further down the road? Most don’t know, and that is for a very good reason. They are interchangeable quite often.

Technically ‘further’ is the most commonly used as it can be for time, distance, and everything else. ‘Farther’ is only for time or distance. So you can use ‘farther’ incorrectly but no ‘further’. So when in doubt….use ‘further’.


Honestly, I can’t see how people can mix these up, but they do. I hope most are because English is a second language. But here’s the difference.

A number is the actual number such as 6, 15, or 100 and can be seen numerically or written out such as six, fifteen, or one hundred.

Amount is a collection or total of numbers. You need to know the amount of the grocery bill so you can pay for it. The amount is made up of numbers.

You can count with numbers but amount is the total of the numbers.


I am shocked how many times these words are used incorrectly. If you are letting me use your lawn mower that I will bring back when I’m done, you are not borrowing me the lawn mower. You are loaning me the lawn mower.

When you borrow, you are the recipient. When you loan something, you are the owner giving it away for a brief time. Please don’t confuse the two.


These are two more that are understandably confused. But there is a difference between the two. Both are verbs.

Precede means to be in front of. Book one precedes book two.

Proceed means to continue. You can proceed through the door that just opened.


This one makes perfect sense but is easy to mix up as you type and write without thinking. I do it all the time.

It’s is a contraction for ‘it is’. Its is possessive as in ‘The dog licked its paw.’ If you can replace the word with ‘it is’, you use the contraction.


This is another example of easy to understand these two words when you see the one as a contraction. Who’s is short for ‘who is’. The other is possessive.

Who’s going to the movies. = Who is going to the movies.

Whose book is that?


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    • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Graf 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin

      Glad to help :)

    • profile image

      Karen Hellier 

      3 years ago

      This is great. I DO get mixed up on about 1/2 of these pairs. I will have to bookmark this so I can have it handy when I am writing. Thanks for this great information!

    • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Graf 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin

      Yes, having so many English words that are similar in spelling and sound does not make it easier.

    • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Graf 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin

      Whom and Who are big ones that I think are getting the pass many times in grammar books because they are continually misused. This site has a good explanation - http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/whoVwhom.asp

    • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Graf 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin

      I catch that a lot. I just did in one of my own stories as I was self-editing. Fixed it quickly.

    • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Graf 

      3 years ago from Wisconsin

      Glad I could help out :) Yes, a lot of people get these confused.

    • dougwest1 profile image

      Doug West 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Good hub. I have trouble with these words sometimes. They make me sit and think and grab the dictionary.

    • profile image

      Setank Setunk 

      3 years ago

      "The girl ran the race with whom?" Is this right? Whom has always given me trouble.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      This one drives me crazy, especially when news people and song writers do this. Things are "that". People are "who". Ex. The girl that ran the race. Should be "The girl who ran the race -"

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      So true, we sometimes dont think before u say something. I have learned a thing or two from the english language know.

    • Japhny Sekoma profile image

      Japhny Sekoma 

      3 years ago

      OMG what an eye opener (Loan/Borrowed

      I am shocked how many times these words are used incorrectly. If you are letting me use your lawn mower that I will bring back when I’m done, you are not borrowing me the lawn mower. You are loaning me the lawn mower.

      When you borrow, you are the recipient. When you loan something, you are the owner giving it away for a brief time. Please don’t confuse the two.) To be honest I didn't know the difference between the two. Thanks


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