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.
CONSCIOUS: awake
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?

40 Comments

  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!

  18. JEN Garrett
    April 10, 2017

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    confident/confidant is another one. confident is a feeling, confidant is a person you tell your secrets to.

  19. Evelyn Reese
    April 13, 2017

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    Great list to have available and I have sent to my facebook pages and tweeted this great information. I know a lot of individuals that can certainly use this list.

  20. Robin Rue
    April 13, 2017

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    I know so many people that misuse a lot of these words. Great info to have handy.

  21. Amber Myers
    April 13, 2017

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    I love this list! I cringe when words are misused sometimes–granted, I do it too. But when I see alot, I’m all, “NO! Two words!”

  22. agentizerozerosetter
    April 13, 2017

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    Omg this list is amazing! I’m italian and it’s so useful, thanks for sharing!

  23. Beth Davidson
    April 13, 2017

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    Led and lead, oh my goodness. I don’t have a problem with it personally, but I edit my husband’s papers and he is terrible with this one! I always tell him if Colonel Mustard’s not in the library with his trusty pipe, it’s not “lead.” I’m printing this out and taping it on his desk. 🙂

  24. Author Brandi Kennedy
    April 13, 2017

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    Oh my gosh, so many people need this list. I’m starting with my teenager!

  25. Caryn/TheMidLifeGuru
    April 13, 2017

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    Great list here!! A wonderful resource.

  26. Holly
    April 13, 2017

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    I totally need to print this out and put it on the fridge for my teenagers but of course I struggle with accept and except sometimes too!…shhhh…they don’t have to know! lol

  27. RUSS
    April 14, 2017

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    The English language can sometimes be confusing, but these are basic things, words that we ought to know and well should be teaching the younger generation, too. It can be tricky, but nothing that won’t be a breeze with studying. This is an awesome list that you put together.

  28. Andy Masaki
    April 14, 2017

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    Wonderful resource Amor :). I am going to print out this right now for my sons.They will definitely love it.

  29. Ana De-Jesus
    April 14, 2017

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    Yes haha so true. Effect and Affect and There and Their is probably the most common words that people confuse x

  30. mauvew16
    April 14, 2017

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    I have seen people get confused over the use of phrase “should have” and say “should of”

  31. Wanderlust Vegans
    April 14, 2017

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    A great resource for new writers. Sometimes these words can be a little confusing.

  32. Hannah Marie
    April 14, 2017

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    I appreciate you sharing this. There are words that I usually used wrongly, it’s very useful 🙂

  33. Ruth I.
    April 14, 2017

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    It’s easier to speak than to write! lol! But now that I started to show interest in writing, this is a very helpful guide!

  34. toastycritic
    April 15, 2017

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    These are a great list of words. I suppose all homophones could exist in the category of misunderstood words. But these are more than that.

  35. Michelle Waller
    April 15, 2017

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    A lot of these confuse me and I am about to turn 30. I always get confused with lose/loose.

  36. Elizabeth O.
    April 17, 2017

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    It’s great that you posted something like this. It’s a good reminder for everyone especially now that we’re all practically on social media and we use writing more than speaking.

  37. Carol Cassara
    April 17, 2017

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    This is awesome! A lot of people make these errors when writing or posting even on their statuses in their social media accounts. This is a good guide.

  38. Mommy Engineering
    April 17, 2017

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    This is definitely an important concept to learn especially in the blogging world. You can look really illiterate if you can’t get these differences!

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