If I Only Had the Words

This Writing Wednesday could not have come at a better time. I’ve been feeling especially angsty this week/managed to bottle up a few frustrations.

And if you ask me, there’s no better therapy than publicly raging over misused words.

If you caught my post about common misspellings, this is kind of like that. The only difference is these words are spelled correctly, they just don’t mean what you’re trying to say.

Know what I mean?

Let’s go.

Affect vs. Effect
I’ll admit this one is a beast and gladly grant a pass for occasional confusion. They have very similar meanings and sound the exact same. Next time you have to use one or the other, remember affect is the verb and effect is the noun. I’d tell you to use “cause and effect” as a way to remember the noun, but cause can also be a verb so forget this whole sentence entirely, please.

Weather vs. Whether
The only time you use weather is when you’re talking about actual weather. Even “weathering the storm” is that kind of weather. Otherwise, you’re gonna go with whether (i.e., “whether or not”).

Principal vs. Principle
Never forget the school principal is your pal. The crappy part is this spelling has two other meanings: first in order of importance (adj.) and a sum of money on which interest is paid (noun). Just remind yourself principals are important people who should make a decent living and you’ll be set. Principle, on the other hand, is a truth, concept or other intangible thing that does not give you detention.

Accept vs. Except
First of all, acception is not a word. So if you’re looking for the right version of that, know your only option is exception. With that in mind, remember except is “to exclude”. Accept is the exact opposite, meaning “to receive”. You’re so accepting you have an excess of Cs!

Except vs. Expect
Just pay attention to your typing on this one. They may look the same at first glance, but sound totally different—and definitely don’t mean the same thing. As mentioned before, except is to exclude, whereas expect is to anticipate or consider something likely to happen.

Peak vs. Peek
This is a new personal favorite thanks to an image shared by my coworker, Dan. Peak is a mountain top or the highest point of a thing. Peek is to look quickly. Therefore, unless you’re talking about a sly mountain (part of me hopes you are), sneak peek is the way to go.


Desert vs. Dessert
This one’s easy. Because desert is the dry, arid stretch of land, you’re likely content with just one of ’em—like the S. But I’ll gladly take two of that sweet, chocolatey dessert.

Parity vs. Parody
My real beef with these terms is the misuse of parody to label fake Twitter accounts. It’s not a parody if you’re straight up pretending to be someone. Instead, a parody is a humorous exaggeration. The joke should be obvious—but it rarely is. Parity, on the other hand, is equality. Think about the word pair. It has an I, just like parity.

Loose vs. Lose
Doesn’t matter how often I see this mixup, it hurts every time. Loose is spelled like moose, so it makes the same sound! You can also think of lose the same way you’d remember desert—you only want to do it once.

Breathe vs. Breath
Consider the extra E in breathe and the long E sound makes sense. You can also remember that breath is shorter and softer in comparison.

Than vs. Then
These should sound totally different, but when you talk as fast as some people (lol, me), they’re easily confused. Remember the A makes than sound like and, and and comes into play when comparing things. That’s when you use thanThen is like when, which dictates time, so you can use then when discussing order of occurrence.

It’s vs. Its
Are vs. Our
Their vs. There vs. They’re
Honestly, just get your sh*t together.

I don’t know about you, but this was fun. I feel good. I feel GREAT. The rest of this week is going to rule.

That is, so long as we all promise to use the right words from here on out. Deal?


Title Credit: William Joel

One thought on “If I Only Had the Words

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