I truly am a lover of words – all words. But just like loving people, some are easy to deal with and and others just drive you crazy! Though my writing journey has been long, that journey is filled with adventurous steeps and valleys. Sometimes I struggle making the climb – writing and rewriting trying to find my way to some unknown place. Always, always there are pebbles along the way that make me stumble. But pebbles are just pebbles and should never make me fall.
It’s interesting that the smallest things can be the very things that trip you up. In the English language there are so many little words (no matter how much we love them) that can be a writer or editor’s nightmare. We writers are all familiar with them. As good writers we must keep them under control or they could ruin a great piece of work we’ve done.
- Then vs Than – Then is used in reference to time: Go through this light, then turn left at the court house. I worked there ten years ago. The building was brand new back then; Than is used to show comparison – She is taller than her sister. OR Than is used to show preference – I would rather walk than catch the bus.
- Lie vs Lay – Lie is the present tense meaning recline or rest – I am going to lie down to take a nap. Lay means to place something in a horizontal position – Please lay that book on the table.
- Let’s vs Lets – Let’s is a contraction of ‘let us’ – Let’s go to the movies today. Lets means to allow – Her mother lets them stay up as late as they want.
- Peek vs Pique vs Peak – Peek means to take a quick glance at – I peeked in her window to see i she was home. Pique means to excite or arouse – Her book really piqued my interest in Civil War history. Peak means pinnacle or highest point – We finally reached the peak of the mountain.
- Affect vs Effect – Affect means something which brings about a change- Her face lift had a strange affect on her personality. Effect means a change that happens as a result of – The storm had a horrific effect on the town’s economy
- Defuse vs Diffuse – Defuse literally means to remove a fuse – He was terrified when he defused the grenade. Diffuse means widespread – The open discussions between countries continue to diffuse tensions around the world.
- Their vs There vs They’re – Their shows possession – That was their house. There means the opposite of here. They moved over there. They’re is contraction of ‘They are’. They’re come to dinner late.
- Passed vs Past – Passed means to move by – I passed her as I walked down the street. Past means before the present time – I knew her brother in the past.
- Mine vs Mind – Mine shows my possession – That book is mine. Mind refers to part of person that thinks. It also means excavation under the earth, i.e. coal mine.
- Allude vs Elude – Allude means to indirectly refer to sometime – She alluded to having been at the party with my sister. Elude means to avoid. He eluded the police by running into the alley.
These are only ten examples of words that drive us crazy. The English language is full of them so be very careful as you write. Your brain will tell you that you are using the right word but when you look at it it’s oh so wrong. Therefore, you must check your work several times. Even when writing a simple letter or e-mail it is important to check our word several times. A simple mistake in a word could change the entire meaning of what you really meant to say. Texting has allowed us to cheat so much in sending message that we now more often misuse proper English wording. Let’s all get back to basics. Fast Food, fast lane, and fast track thinking will sometimes get us in trouble.