Editing 101: Words Frequently Confused (Part 2)

images-1Most writers enjoy games that test their knowledge of word skills. Yet, knowing which word or phrase to choose can be a challenge even for those of us who consider ourselves “word” worshippers. Are you aware of the distinctions listed below?

Alumna refers to “one female graduate of an institution,” while alumnae refers to two or more females. Alumnus refers to one male, while alumni refers to both to two or more males or the collectively to all of a particular school’s student graduates (male and female).

Tortuous means “winding, twisting, full of curves,” while torturous refers to “extreme suffering.”

Dual means “two,” while duel refers to “a contest or battle.”

Canvas is a “strong, coarse material,” while canvass is a verb meaning “to survey people” upon their opinions of a product, politics, etc.

Lead can be used as a noun or an adjective to mean “a soft, heavy meta” or when used as a verb, adjective or noun to mean “to guide or to be in command of.” Led is the past tense of the verb “lead.”

Your is a possessive pronoun, while you’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Forbear mean “to refrain from” or “to hold back,” while forebear refers to an ancestor.

Adapt means “to adjust to a new situation,” while adopt is “to accept as one’s own.” Adept, meanwhile, means “skillful.”

Cannon is “a mounted weapon,” while canon is “a church law or rule, or a set of principles.”

Flounder means “to flail” or “to struggle helplessly with faltering or hesitant movements.” Founder means “to fail, to go lame or to sink.” (It can also refer to the person or organization that establishes something.)

Amount is an indefinite quantity, which cannot be counted (as in the amount of love); it is used with singular mass nouns. Use number with plural count nouns, consisting of a quantity or people or things that can be counted (as in the number of contestants).

Callous means “a lack of interest, tactlessness, or a hard attitude,” callus refers to “hardened skin caused by friction.”

Foreword refers to “the introductory remarks found before the text of a book.” Forward means “moving to a point ahead.”

words.1Adverse refers to “unfavorable,” while averse means “having a distaste for.”

Between is used for two people, places of things (between you and me). Among is used for three or more people, places, or things.

Take means “to carry” or “to lead away from someone or something (as in take this message to the governor), while bring means “to carry” or “to lead toward someone or something” (as in bring me that book).

Buses are “motorized vehicles,” while busses are “kisses.”

Cannot is one word, not two.

Troupe is “a company of actors,” while troop is used to refer to other groups (soldiers, scouts, etc.)

Indefinite means “not accurate, vague, or not precise,” while infinite means “without limits.”

Fewer is used for things that can be counted (as in fewer than a dozen children), while less is used for bulk or quantity (as in less than a ream of paper).

Use each other for two involved people, places, or things. Use one another for three or more.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in editing, language choices, word play, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Editing 101: Words Frequently Confused (Part 2)

  1. carolcork says:

    Regina, I know I often misuse words and your posts are an indispensable tool.

    • It happens to all of us, Carol. Even after multiple edits (including a professional editor) on one of books, I noted after publication that I misused “chord” and “cord.” Most of these types of posts come from my years in journalism.

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