Monday, August 22, 2011

Common Words Writers and Bloggers Misuse: Fun with Words

Disclaimer: I am not a grammarian. I make mistakes in my writing. I am always learning, growing and (hopefully) honing my craft.

I read a lot of blogs and see common words that even seasoned writers and bloggers misuse. In many cases, online writers and bloggers don’t have editors. We can self-publish with the push of a button. There is danger in that freedom; when words are repeatedly used incorrectly, a writer’s post or article loses credibility.

Homonyms are tricky. They are words that are spelled or pronounced the same way as one or more other words but have different meanings. If you’re writing and you’re unsure about the proper use of a word, take the time to look it up. If you’re in the flow and can’t be bothered, go back and edit before you publish. It matters.

Here are some of the worst offenders:

Site vs. Cite vs. Sight
SITE is a noun that means a place or location, although it doesn’t have to describe a physical place. For example, as a blogger you hope to attract more readers to your site.

CITE is a verb that’s used when you quote something in your writing or refer to someone else's work. Even if you paraphrase, you must cite your source(s).

Example: The new homonym site is a helpful resource but the writers don’t cite their sources correctly there.

SIGHT is a noun that means the act of seeing. Example: After a long wait, the editor’s positive comments were a welcome sight.

Here vs. Hear

HERE is a noun that means at this time or at this point. Example: You go on to the lecture, I need to stay here and write this down while it’s on my mind.

HEAR is a verb that means to listen. I’ve heard writers say it’s easy to remember that HEAR refers to hearing because it has the word ear in it. Example: I hear imaginary applause when I finish writing a good blog post. (not really)

Their vs. There vs. They're

THEIR is a possessive adjective. Examples include I enjoy their writing or their blogs are always good.

THERE can be used as an adverb, noun, and pronoun, adjective and even as an interjection but is most commonly used as an adverb or a pronoun. As an adverb: He is writing a short story there in the library. As a pronoun: There is no way I could write in the library, it’s too noisy.

THEY'RE is a contraction of the words they and are. Example: With so much talent, I'm glad they're beginning to take their fiction writing seriously.

Affect Vs. Effect
AFFECT is a verb and means to influence somebody or something. Example: Reading Stephen King novels could positively affect your writing style.

EFFECT is a noun and means result, consequence or outcome. Example: Though powerfully written, that blog post had no effect on me.

Accept Vs. Except
ACCEPT generally means to receive as in I accept responsibility for the errors in that advertising copy.

EXCEPT can be used as a preposition meaning leaving out or as a verb used to mean exclude. Example: Everyone used the homonym incorrectly except the people that read this blog post.

Other common offenders:
Plain vs. Plane  (I wrote a blog post about this one)
Capital vs. Capitol
Principle vs. Principal
To vs. Too vs. Two
Allusion vs. Illusion
Elicit vs. Illicit
Councilor vs. Counselor
Loose vs. Lose
…the list goes on and on.

How about you? What are some words that make you pause and go hmmm?
The Online Grammar Guide

Encarta Dictionary


  1. The main one that makes me cringe is 'your' (as in 'belonging to you') and you're (meaning 'you are')

  2. Thanks for this timely reminder. I see mistakes like these in self-published and even mass produced publications these days. I think we've all gotten lazy about letting our spell check function zoom through and calling that "editing". The fact is that if the wrong word is spelled right - spell check doesn't catch it. Human eyes still need to read through.

  3. Great blog. Some of these words are tricky. Sometimes I am typing along and mean one of them and type another to be caught later in editing. This is wonderful and would be great for kids to read who are just learning to write.


  4. I can think of some... like feet vs feat and your vs you're or perhaps my biggest pet peeve is principal vs principle (oh wait, you mentioned that one. LOLOL)

    Well...this is something every writer should read and read often. Cheers!! Jenn

  5. Write equals right and vise versa when I'm overtired.

  6. I'm with Paula. The sloppy use of "you're" and "your" makes me bristle. I'm also a big fan (so to speak) of "loose" and "lose" which you mentioned. Though they are not the same I hear people using the word "wreck" when they mean "wreak" as in "wreck havoc." I have also heard the word "mute" substituted (incorrectly, of course) for the word "moot." All I can say is Ugg or did I mean "Ugh"? ;-)

  7. I tend to give bloggers a break, but seeing such mistakes in a newspaper makes me cringe. Another common mix-up is between those twins, its and it's.

  8. I hate finding incorrect word spellings on my blog. If anyone sees something I want to know because no telling when an editor or agent could be looking.



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