April 4, 2016 | Posted in: April 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, Writing & Grammar Tips, XterraWeb Book Blog

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C is for Commonly Confused Words

Commonly Confused Words with Definitions and Examples

Words that sound alike or nearly alike but have different meanings can often cause writers difficulties. Here is a list of some of the most commonly confused words with correct definitions and examples.

ACCEPT: to receive
Example: He accepts the reward.
EXCEPT: to take or leave out
Example: Please move all the boxes except the one labeled fragile.

AFFECT: to influence
Example: Lack of rain can affect crop growth.
EFFECT: (noun) result; (verb) to accomplish
Example: The pain medication had an immediate effect on the patient’s pain.
Example: The new director effected positive changes in the program.

A LOT (two words): many
ALOT (one word): not the correct form
Example: Bobby has a lot of Lego blocks.
ALLOT: to give out as a share or portion
Example: The talk show host will allot twenty minutes to each guest.

ALLUSION: an indirect reference
Example:The English teacher made an allusion to Mark Twain’s work.
ILLUSION: a false perception of reality
Example: Margaret indulged in the illusion that the captain of the football team was her boyfriend.

ALL READY: prepared
Example: Her luggage was all ready when the taxi arrived.
ALREADY: by this time
Example: Annie was already in her seat when the school bell rang.

ALTOGETHER: entirely
Example: Mark isn’t altogether trustworthy around chocolate.
ALL TOGETHER: gathered, with everything in one place
Example: We were all together at the party.

APART: to be separated
Example: The cubicles kept the employees apart.
A PART: to be joined with
Example: A part of the project involves assigning tasks to each member of the team.

ASCENT: climb
Example: The ascent to the mountain overlook took two hours.
ASSENT: agreement
Example: The patient assented to undergo the experimental treatment.

CAPITAL: seat of government. Also financial resources.
Example: The capital of Montana is Helena.
Example: The small business had enough capital to open a second store.
CAPITOL: the actual building in which the legislative body meets
Example: The governor gave a speech at the capitol today.

CITE: to quote or document
Example: The student cited six quotes from the same author in his paper.
SIGHT: vision
Example: The sight of the snow-covered roads filled Amy with fear.
SITE: position or place
Example: The new office building was built on the site of an old factory.

COMPLEMENT: (noun) something that completes; (verb) to complete
Example: A nice red wine complements a steak dinner.
COMPLIMENT: (noun) praise; (verb) to praise
Example: The editor complimented the writer on his use of the Oxford comma.

CONSCIENCE: sense of right and wrong
Example: The young man’s conscience kept him from taking the money from the wallet he found.
Example: George was still conscious when the firefighters rescued him from the burning house.

COUNCIL: a group that consults or advises
Example: The men and women on the council will vote on each item on the agenda.
COUNSEL: to advise
Example: The teacher counseled the students about preparing for the final exam.

ELICIT: to draw or bring out
Example: The parents elicited an appropriate response from their son.
ILLICIT: illegal
Example: The gang member was arrested for his illicit activities.

EMINENT: famous, respected
Example: Paintings by several eminent painters, including Van Gogh, Picasso, and Renoir, hung in the gallery.
IMMANENT: inherent or intrinsic
Example: The immanent beauty of the bubbling creek and the meadow filled with flowers affected the tourists profoundly.
IMMINENT: ready to take place
Example: Someone skating on thin ice is in imminent danger.

LEAD: (noun) a type of metal
Example: The pipe is made of lead.
LED: (verb) past tense of the verb “to lead”
Example: The trail guide led the hikers safely up the mountain.

LOSE: (verb) to misplace or not win
Example: If you lose your keys, you might have to call a locksmith.
LOOSE: (adjective) to not be tight; (verb) to release
Example: The boy’s pants were too loose and wouldn’t stay up.
Example: The hunters set the hounds loose on the fox.

PRECEDE: to come before
Example: Revisions to the rough draft of a manuscript precede the final draft.
PROCEED: to go forward
Example: Jonathan proceeded through the hallway.

PRINCIPAL: (adjective) most important; (noun) a person who has authority
Example: The principal ingredient in peanut butter cookies is peanut butter.
Example: A student who doesn’t follow rules might be sent to the principal’s office.
PRINCIPLE: a general or fundamental truth
Example: Majority rule is a basic principle of democracy.

STATIONARY: standing still
Example: The driver was at fault for the accident because he hit a stationary object.
STATIONERY: writing paper
Example: Some writers prefer writing on stationery with lines, while others prefer unlined paper.

SUPPOSED TO: correct form for “to be obligated to” or “presumed to”
Example: Grandma’s plane is supposed to arrive at 10:30.
SUPPOSE: to guess or make a conjecture
Example: Julie supposes Grandma’s plane will be on time.

THAN: use with comparisons
Example: Many soldiers would rather make dinner in a Crock-Pot than eat at the DFAC.
THEN: at that time, or next
Example: I ate dinner at home, and then I went out for dessert.

THROUGH: by means of; finished; into or out of
Example: The car crashed through the wooden fence.
THREW: past tense of throw
Example: She threw away the leftover food.
THRU-abbreviated slang for through; not appropriate in standard writing
Example: Bob and Fed are thru with work for the day and will grab dinner at the drive-thru.

WHO: (pronoun) refers to a person(s)
Example: Jenna wondered why Jack, who was always punctual, was late picking her up.
WHICH: (pronoun) replaces a thing(s)s
Example: Which book genre is your favorite?
THAT: used to refer to things or a group or class of people
Example: Miranda lost the book that she borrowed from the library.

WHO: used as a subject or as a subject complement
Example: Steve is the man who will get the job done right.
WHOM: used as an object
Example: Whom did Sarah choose to go with her?


  1. Amor Libris (Kelly Hartigan)
    April 4, 2016

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    Are there any words not on this list that you either confuse yourself or have seen others confuse? Please share in the comments!

  2. Cynthia
    April 4, 2016

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    This is great information to have and I reblogged/shared/tweeted! 🙂

  3. Tom
    April 5, 2016

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    Another one to check I have in my folder of ‘things to consider’.
    I have so many ‘ten things to …’ and ‘fifteen things all writers must …’ etc.
    I have a feeling the number of checklists is why I still end up with the odd issue creeping in.
    Great post. 🙂

  4. Kelly
    April 6, 2016

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    Another pair I see misused frequently is imply/infer. The speaker implies. The listener infers.

  5. Carla Waluck
    April 8, 2016

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    I had no idea the different spellings for Capitol meant something different. LEarn somethign new everyday. Thanks.

  6. Katie
    April 8, 2016

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    I see shudder/shutter mixed up a lot in the books I’ve been reading recently. Also peek/peak/pique are occasionally used incorrectly (typically peak is used in place of pique).

  7. DJ Sakata
    April 8, 2016

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    I am guilty of struggling with the effect/affect

  8. Alisha Webster
    April 8, 2016

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    Great post! I’m in the same boat as Dj!

  9. Sara
    April 9, 2016

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    I love this!!!

  10. Arlee Bird
    April 29, 2016

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    I certainly confuse words such as these. Hopefully I’m editing myself good enough to catch them.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  11. me510
    January 17, 2017

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    Great post! Affect and Effect are in my nightmares right now. I can never seem to figure out when to use one or the other. Ugh!

  12. Chloe
    January 18, 2017

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    I need to print this out and stick it on my wall! I usually pick the right words but when I am tired it is sometimes easy to get confused.

    • Amor Libris (Kelly Hartigan)
      January 18, 2017

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      Sometimes it is hard to pick the right words, Chloe. Printing something like this and putting it on your wall is a good idea. Maybe I should put together some downloadable and/or printable charts, like this one, to add to my website.

  13. Dana Vento
    January 18, 2017

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    This would be perfect idea to know the common of these words! Saving this for printing thanks!

  14. Our Family World
    January 18, 2017

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    My son was always confused about theses common words! He would probably need this. Glad I found it.

  15. katrinagehman
    January 18, 2017

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    there are a few of them that i get mixed up as well. it’s funny how some of them are so common.

  16. JustOneMommysOpinion (@1MommysOpinion)
    March 4, 2017

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    Haha, I cannot stand when people use some of these words incorrectly. Like, did you go to school?

  17. Kari Ann
    March 7, 2017

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    I actually think it is common and I did go to school and college lol. I usually pick up my mistakes during editing 🙂 Great list to have handy!

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