Does the language from the “olden days” sound pretentious in today’s relaxed society (such as “whom” vs “who”?) To this day, I continue to say “To whom it may concern…” when starting a letter and no particular person is addressed.
Between my personal and professional life, it is safe to say I read quite a bit and talk to a lot of people. Lately I’ve noticed an increase in the improper use of English words as many are very close in pronunciation and/or spelling, yet have different meanings.
What’s really astonishing is some of the people who flub on the word they have elected to use are regarded as highly educated people or journalists who have studied English in-depth for their career.
On the other hand, I realize a number of “everyday Joes” who would say “English” was not
there they’re their best subject; but dude…you speak it, learn how to use it properly.
In an effort to help those of us who sometimes have difficulty understanding the difference of those crazy English words, I have listed the more irritating ones below along with their meaning or how they should be used in a sentence. I hope this helps clarifies some of those confusing and pesky English word choices for you.
Adverse or Averse
Adverse means harmful or unfavorable. Averse means dislike or opposition.
Affect or Effect
Affect means to influence. Effect means to carry out or accomplish something.
Arbitrator or Mediator
Arbitrate appears in many contracts. An arbitrator is like a judge; he/she hears evidence, reviews documents, etc, and then makes a decision. A mediator does not make decisions but tries to help two opposing parties work out their differences and reach a compromise or settlement.
Can vs. May
Can is used to indicate what is possible. May is used to indicate what is permissible.
Compliment vs. Complement
Compliment is to say something nice. Complement is to add to, enhance, improve, complete or bring close to perfection.
Discreet or Discrete
Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment. Discrete means individual, separate or distinct.
Elicit or Illicit
Elicit means to draw out or coax. Illicit means illegal or unlawful.
Farther or Further
Farther involves a physical distance. Further involves a figurative distance.
Imply vs. Infer
A speaker or writer implies while the listener or reader infers.
Insure or Ensure
Insure refers to insurance and Ensure means to make sure.
Precede or Proceed
Precede means to come before. Proceed means to begin or continue.
Principle or Principal
A principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. Principal means primary or of first importance.
They’re or Their
They’re is the contraction for “they are.” The apostrophe does not own anything. We’re going to their house, and I sure hope they’re home.
You’re and Your
You’re is the contraction for you are. Your means you own it; the apostrophe in you’re does not own anything.
I hope you have a gr8 day!