Thursday, September 13, 2012

Misused Words

People, including lawyers, misuse these words all the time.

Publix got it right!

Few people know the way to properly use these words. (See what I did there—if not, you will). The term few should be used when talking about objects that can be numbered. The term less should be used when discussing a non-specific quantity of something.

Mary had only a few dollars in her wallet.

Mary made significantly less money than her friends.

Accept means to receive something, while except means to exclude something. Accept is a verb. Except is a preposition meaning “other than.”

Mary gladly accepted a scholarship from State University.
Mary liked every class she took at State University except Western Civilizations.

These are the two words I most frequently see misused. Affect is a verb and means impacting or influencing. Effect is a noun and is the result of the impact or influence. To affect something is to produce an effect in that thing. For example,

Mary was affected greatly by her mother’s death.
The death of Mary’s mother had a great effect on Mary.

Alot/a lot
Alot is not a word (allot means something different); a lot means many. I personally was told years ago never to use the term “a lot,” so I don’t. If you feel inclined to use it, please make sure to use two words.

Mary used a lot of highlighters during her final exams.

These are personal pet peeves of mine. Watch a 30 minute news cast and I bet you will count at least 5 times where these words are misused. The term anxious means concerned about a future happening. The term eager means excited about future happening.

Mary eagerly awaited the day she would graduate from college.
Mary anxiously waited for the results of her skin cancer screening.

Ascent means the action of climbing or rising. Assent means agreement.

Mary ascended the stairs to the lecture hall.
Mary assented to help her classmate study for the test.

These two also are often confused. Assure means convince. Ensure means to make certain.

Mary assured her mother that she would do well in her classes.
Mary’s mother hired a tutor to ensure that Mary did well in her classes.

The term elicit means to bring out. Illicit means illegal.

Mary sent an email to her professor to elicit a response about the date of the final examination.
Mary avoided parties where illicit activity might occur.

These are two more words that few people use properly. Lay (and its tenses—laid and laying) means to place. Lie (and its tenses—lay, lain and lying) means to recline.

Mary laid her purse on the table and walked to her bedroom.
After placing her purse on the table, Mary walked to her bedroom to lie down.

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