Groan!!! More Editing Tips

If the people with whom we communicate understand us when we use “may” instead of “can,” or “convince” instead of “persuade,” or “one another” when we should be using “each other,” does it really matter?

Semanticists often accept the changes, but grammarians, who establish and maintain language standards, are not so willing to swallow the mistakes.

My students always groaned when I responded to their requests for a restroom pass. Student: “Can I use the bathroom?” Me: “I don’t know. I have never followed you to the restroom to see if you have that ability.” Groan!!! Student: “May I use the restroom?” Me: “You have my permission.”

That is the basis of the difference between these words. Can means ability to, while may means permission.

Convince means to cause someone to believe.

Persuade means to cause someone to take action.

He convinced voters of the need for a new gas tax.

He persuaded the group to write letters to their lawmakers.

Use each other when two people, places, or things are involved.

Use one another for three or more.

Sam and Dave have known each other for since childhood.

Sam, Dave, and Horace have worked with one another on the new project.

Use farther for distance.

Use further to refer to degree or extent.

It was farther to grandma’s house than he expected.

He would speak further with reporters after the conference.

Use fewer for things one can count.

Use less for bulk or quantity.

Fewer than 100 protestors made an appearance.

We have less than a year’s supply of paper at the school.

In behalf of means for the benefit of.

On behalf of means in place of.

We raised money in behalf of the team.

The attorney spoke on behalf of his client.

Proved is considered a verb, while proven is an adjective. (This is an Associated Press rule. I know some dictionaries will disagree. Do not write me hate mail. LOL!)

His intuition proved profitable.

A proven method for discovering the truth was not available.

Doctor is a title, not a profession.

Use try to, not try and. Likewise, use be sure to, not be sure and.

Remove the eye from eyewitness.

Remember all mobs are angry, all beatings are brutal.

Avoid using past and future when they are obvious. For example, past history is redundant. So is past/previous/prior work experience. One’s future plans does not mean we doubling the meaning.

Nauseated means feeling sick or disgusted. Nauseous means causing sickness or disgust.

I felt nauseated after riding the roller coaster.

The man’s behavior was nauseating.

If you say your best friend is nauseous, you are saying your friend is disgusting.

Everyday is an adjective used to refer to days in general.

Every day emphasizes the individual day.

(Hint: If you can substitute each for every in the phrase, use every day.)

Finding true love is not an everyday occurrence.

Every day is a new experience in Internet marketing.

Famous means to be well known for favorable reasons.

Infamous and notorious mean to be well known for unfavorable reasons.

Stanch means to stop the flow of blood from a wound, to check or to extinguish.

Staunch means to be steadfast in principle or loyalty.

What are some of the words, which find confusing?

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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7 Responses to Groan!!! More Editing Tips

  1. Jakki L says:

    Wonderful post, Regina! One of my favorite books about these confusables is “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty for Better Writing.” Sometimes when I am typing fast I will type the wrong word if it is a homophone. Reason #16 why one should proofread one’s writing. 😉

    • I must check out the book you recommend. My friend, George Arnold, who is a retired journalism professor (my college prof), taught me many of these. When I was still teaching, I used his textbook to help both my journalism and my English students.

      • Jakki L. says:

        I’m always interested in good books like this, Regina. What is the name of his book? I looked on Amazon and could not find anything. Thanks!

      • Media Writer’s Handbook: A Guide to Common Writing and Editing Problems – the Sixth Edition of the book is out – it’s a spiral bound text with lots of cross references

  2. Thanks for the reminders, Regina! You are the queen of grammar and correct usage – and I mean that in the most complimentary way!

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