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Clearing Up Confusing Words

Many words in English cause confusion because they sound or look alike. Here are a few rules to help you with some common but tricky words.

Rule 1: The word accept means “to agree,” “to receive.”
The word except means “but,” “not including.”

Examples:
I accept your apology.
I’ll eat anything except cottage cheese.

Rule 2: The word allusion means “an indirect mention of something.”
The word illusion means “false perception.”

Examples:
In her novel, the author made an allusion to her own childhood.
OR The author alluded to her own childhood.
The magician created the illusion that the rabbit disappeared right before our eyes.

Rule 3: The word complement means “to complete” or “to enhance.”
The word compliment means “to praise.”

Examples:
Their algebra textbook won awards because her math skills complemented his writing skills beautifully.
I want to compliment you on your beautiful singing voice.

Click here to see many more Confusing Words and Homonyms clarified with examples.

 

Pop Quiz

  1. I cannot accept/except the fact that he doesn’t want to invest in real estate with me.
  2. Einstein was the first scientist to point out that the perception of time as linear is an allusion/illusion.
  3. My husband gave me such a nice complement/compliment when he said that my proofreading skills were as sharp as his editor’s.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

Correct answers are indicated in bold type and by an asterisk (*).

  1. I cannot *accept/except the fact that he doesn’t want to invest in real estate with me.
  2. Einstein was the first scientist to point out that the perception of time as linear is an allusion/*illusion.
  3. My husband gave me such a nice complement/*compliment when he said that my proofreading skills were as sharp as his editor’s.

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Posted on Friday, September 11, 2009, at 9:52 am


Into vs. In To

How does one know when to use into or in to?

One of the main uses of the preposition into is to indicate movement toward the inside of a place.

Examples
The children jumped into the lake for a swim.
Mom drove the car into the garage.

In to is the adverb in followed by the preposition to.

Examples:
He turned his paper in to the teacher.
The administrators wouldn’t give in to the demands of the protesters.

We will explore into vs. in to in more depth in a future blog.

 

Pop Quiz

  1. As a child, I was too afraid to go into/in to the Halloween haunted house.
  2. I’m going to turn the wallet I found into/in to the police.
  3. If your battery is running low, you’ll need to plug your power cord into/in to the socket.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. into
  2. in to
  3. into

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Posted on Saturday, July 18, 2009, at 10:02 pm


I vs. Me (Review)

I get more questions about pronoun usage, particularly I vs. me, than any other topic. So, here is a review that should help you feel more secure about your choices. For more on the topic, click here.

Should we say, “She and I went to the store”? Or is it correct to say, “She and me went to the store”?

Is it, “He put suntan lotion on him and I”? Or would you say, “He put suntan lotion on him and me”?

Many of us were taught to be suspicious of me, as though uttering this “dirty” word would make us sound uneducated. But the question of whether to use I or me comes down to whether you are using the word as a subject or as an object in the sentence. Both words are pronouns, but I is a subject pronoun while me is an object pronoun.

So, in the sentence, “She and I went to the store,” the correct word to use would be I rather than me. Why? Because I is the subject of the sentence. (Who is going to the store? She and I are going to the store.)

One good way to test this rule is to see how it sounds when you use each pronoun individually: It sounds right to say, “She went to the store.” You would also say, “I went to the store.”

“He put suntan lotion on him and me” would be correct because him and me are objects. Specifically, they are objects of the preposition on. “He put suntan lotion on him” is obviously correct rather than “on he.” You would also say, “He put suntan lotion on me,” not “on I.”

Pop Quiz
Select the correct sentence.

1A. Arlene asked he and I to complete the job.
1B. Arlene asked him and me to complete the job.

2A. He and I completed the job for Arlene.
2B. Him and me completed the job for Arlene.

Answers to Pop Quiz

1B. Arlene asked him and me to complete the job.
2A. He and I completed the job for Arlene.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, at 9:30 am


Regardless vs. Irregardless, Sneaked vs. Snuck, Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

Regardless vs. Irregardless

Some words in the English language are so overused that we don’t notice that they are incorrect or don’t even exist. A perfect example is irregardless. There is no such word as irregardless because regardless already means “without regard.” The -ir prefix is redundant.

Sneaked vs. Snuck

Both sneaked and snuck are commonly used as the past and perfect tenses for sneak. However, in formal writing, sneaked is still preferable to snuck. A writer can’t go wrong using sneaked.

Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure

These three words can be confusing.

Assure = to promise or say with confidence
Example: Let me assure you that I will be at the meeting.

Ensure = to make sure something will or won’t happen
Example: To ensure my family’s safety, I have installed an alarm.

Insure = to issue or purchase an insurance policy
Example: I will insure my home with an additional fire policy.

 

Pop Quiz
Choose the correct word:
1. She sneaked/snuck out of the house in the middle of the night.
2. I assure/ensure/insure you that I have been honest about the money I spent.
3. I will assure/ensure/insure my car as required by law.

Pop Quiz Answers
1. She sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night. (Correct)
2. I assure you that I have been honest about the money I spent.
3. I will insure my car as required by law.

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Posted on Saturday, August 9, 2008, at 6:40 pm


Bi vs. Semi (weekly, monthly, annually)

Using bi or semi in front of time periods can cause tremendous confusion.

Biweekly means once every two weeks or twice a week.
Bimonthly means once every two months or twice a month.
In addition, a biweekly publication is issued every two weeks and a bimonthly publication is issued every two months.
Semiweekly means twice a week.
Semimonthly means twice a month.

To avoid confusion, you may want to substitute the actual time frame for these confusing terms.
For example, say, “I visit my aunt every two weeks,” not “I visit my aunt bimonthly.” If you mean every two weeks, you may also say, “I visit my aunt semimonthly.”

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Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, at 1:14 am