14 May

By: Penny, EzineArticles Managing Editor

English is a complex language to both understand and use. There are often dozens of different ways to express a single thought or idea in words. On top of that, there are confusing language elements like homonyms, jargon, loaded words and other awkward word combinations that can trip us up.

Even adults who’ve been using English their entire lives can’t be faulted for consulting a dictionary to make sure they’re using a word correctly or to see if what they’re saying makes sense.

It would be nearly impossible to put to rest every question about misused words in a single blog post, but today we decided to share some of the most common ones we’ve come across. Then we’ll leave it up to you to ask any lingering questions you still have or, better yet, share your own tips.

Answering Some of the Most Commonly Asked Word Choice Questions

Affect vs. Effect

This one gives a lot of people trouble. The word “affect” has two possible meanings. Most commonly, it’s used as a verb meaning “have an influence on” or “change”, as in “That experience affected me very much.” It can also be used as a general term meaning emotion, as in “She absorbed the news with little affect.”

On the other hand, “effect” is usually a noun meaning “result,” as in “When I started wearing a watch, the effect was that I never missed another appointment.”

Of course, there are also a few other uses, like the things in your purse are your personal “effects,” and in a science fiction movie there are usually some special “effects.”

Could Have, Should Have, Would Have

When spoken, the contraction “could’ve” usually comes out sounding like “could of”, however this is not correct. Instead, the correct spelling is always could’ve. This goes for could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, must’ve, etc.

Other Common Mistakes

  • Accept vs. Except – “Accept” means “to receive”, while “except” usually means “but” or “to leave out.”
  • Desert vs. Dessert – A “desert” is a dry, arid region. Also, it could be a verb meaning “to abandon.” “Dessert” is a dish served at the end of the meal. Think about it this way: when it comes to desserts, you should always ask for a second helping of the “s”.
  • I.e. vs. E.g. – “I.e” is the Latin abbreviation of “id est,” which means “that is.” Use this in place of “in other words” or when you’re making something more clear. “E.g.” is the Latin abbreviation of “exempli gratia,” which means “for example.”
  • Then vs. Than – “Than” is used to compare two things, while “then” tells when.
  • Toward – There is no “s” at the end of the word, even though when spoken the “s” may sound natural.

What can you add to this list?


  1. orthodontia September 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I love it whenever people come together and share opinions.
    Great website, keep it up!

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