grammar and spelling / teacher resources / words / writers resources

Grammar and Spelling Aren’t Just for Computers

4759fb7762c982d6c3afa9f1d3ee488cThe importance of spelling was driven home viciously to every school child in the country in 1992 when Dan Quayle, our one-time Vice President, errantly corrected a sixth grader for spelling ‘potato’ without the ‘e’.

In his defense, the English language is darn confusing, and Americans often have a poor grasp of right and wrong. Read this:

  • The roundest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
  • I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
  • A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

I wanted to write a post about grammar and spelling and misused words, but the boys at HELP beat me to it. Read this about the 32 most commonly-misused expressions and phrases:

1. Accept/Except- Although these two words sound alike (they’re homophones), they have two completely different meanings. “Accept” means to willingly receive something (accept a present.) “Except” means to exclude something (I’ll take all of the books except the one with the red cover.)

2. Affect/Effect- The way you “affect” someone can have an “effect” on them. “Affect” is usually a verb and “Effect” is a noun.

3. Alright- If you use “alright,” go to the chalkboard and write “Alright is not a word” 100 times.

4. Capital/Capitol- “Capitol” generally refers to an official building. “Capital” can mean the city which serves as a seat of government or money or property owned by a company. “Capital” can also mean “punishable by death.”

5. Complement/Compliment- I often must compliment my wife on how her love for cooking perfectly complements my love for grocery shopping.

6. Comprise/Compose- The article I’m composing comprises 32 parts.

7. Could Of- Of the 32 mistakes on this list, this is the one that bothers me most. It’s “could have” not “could of.” When you hear people talking, they’re saying “could’ve.” Got it?

8. Desert/Dessert- A desert is a hot, dry patch of sand. Dessert, on the other hand, is the sweet, fatty substance you eat at the end of your meal.

9. Discreet/Discrete- We can break people into two discrete (separate) groups, the discreet (secretive) and indiscreet.

10. Emigrate/Immigrate- If I leave this country to move to Europe, the leaving is emigrating and the arriving is immigrating.

11. Elicit/Illicit- Some people post illicit things on message boards to elicit outrageous reactions from others.

12. Farther/Further- Farther is used for physical distance, whereas further means to a greater degree.

13. Fewer/Less- Use fewer when referring to something that can be counted one-by-one. Use less when it’s something that doesn’t lend itself to a simple numeric amount.

14. Flair/Flare- A flair is a talent, while a flare is a burst (of anger, fire, etc.)

15. i.e/e.g- I.e. is used to say “in other words.” E.g. is used in place of “for example.”

16. Inflammable- Don’t let the prefix confuse you, if something is inflammable it can catch on fire.

17. It’s/Its- It’s= it is. Its=a possessive pronoun meaning of it or belonging to. Whatever you do, please don’t use its’.

18. Imply/Infer- A reader infers what an author implies. In other words, when you imply something, you hint at it. When you infer something, you draw a conclusion based on clues.

19. Literally- If you say “His head literally exploded because he was so mad!” then we should see brains splattered on the ceiling.

20. Lose/Loose- If your pants are too loose you may lose them. That would be almost as embarrassing as misusing these two words.

21. Moral/Morale- Morals are something you want to teach your kids. If your team’s morale is low, you need to do something to boost their confidence.

22. Percent/Percentage- The word “percent” should only be used when a specific number is given. “Percentage” is more of a general term.

23. Stationary/Stationery- You are stationary when you aren’t moving. Stationery is something you write on.

24. Then/Than- “Then” is another word for “after.” Incidentally, the word “then” makes for boring writing. “Than” is a comparative word (e.g. I am smarter than you).

25. There/Their/They’re- There are few things as frustrating as when I look at my students’ writing and they’re misusing these words in their writing.

26. Unique- Something can’t be “kind of unique” or even “very unique.” It’s either one-of-a-kind or it isn’t. There is no in between when it comes to unique.

27. Your/You’re- If I had a nickel for every time I saw this one… yeah, you know the rest. “Your” shows ownership and you’re is a contraction meaning “you are.” Get it right.

28. To/Too/Two- Two is a number. “To” is used in instances such as, “I am going to the store.” If you are supposed to use the word “too,” try inserting the word “extra” or “also.” If one of those fits, you need to also add the extra “o” to make “too.”

29. Lie/Lay- After you lay the books on the table, go lie down on the couch.

30. Sit/Set- Set your drink on the table and sit in your chair. Got it?

31. Whose/Who’s- Whose is the possessive form of who. Who’s is a contraction meaning “who is.”

32. Allude/Elude- When someone alludes to something in conversation (indirectly references), if you aren’t paying attention the meaning may elude you (escape you).


5 thoughts on “Grammar and Spelling Aren’t Just for Computers

  1. Pingback: Writers Tip #98: 18 Tips on Grammar from William Safire « Jacqui Murray

  2. Pingback: Writers Tip #98: 18 Tips on Grammar from William Safire | WordDreams...

  3. Pingback: Grammarly–online or resident grammar checker | WordDreams...

  4. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Grammar and Spelling Aren’t Just for Computers « Word Dreams… [] on

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