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.


Affect/Effect

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…..


Troupe/Troop

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.



Mute/Moot

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.



Irregardless

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.


Allusion/Illusion

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.


Capital/Capitol

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?

See results

Principal/Principle

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?


Elicit/Illicit

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.

Emigrate/Immigrate

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.

Than/Then

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.


Lie/Lay

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.

Farther/Further

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’.

Number/Amount

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.

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.


Proceed/Precede

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.


It's/Its

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.


Whose/Who’s

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?

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • RGraf profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Graf 

        2 years ago from Wisconsin

        Glad to help :)

      • profile image

        Karen Hellier 

        2 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 

        2 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 

        2 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 

        2 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 

        2 years ago from Wisconsin

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

      • dougwest1 profile image

        Doug West 

        2 years ago from Raymore, MO

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

      • profile image

        Setank Setunk 

        2 years ago

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

      • Kathleen Cochran profile image

        Kathleen Cochran 

        2 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

        Roxannecoltman 

        2 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 

        2 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

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)