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Avoiding Word Confusion

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger on Aug 2, 2012 7:00:58 AM

English is a complicated language. There are those pesky homographs, homophones, and homonyms that trip up even the most seasoned authors tapping out pages at blazing speeds. The changing tide of technology brings with it new rules on things like vocative case and the serial comma. There's not even a consensus anymore on whether a preposition belongs at the end of a sentence or not. The shaky and ever-evolving foundation of the English language is enough to make a writer's head spin.

One of the major stumbling blocks caused by the layered nuances of English is word confusion. Every writer has faced the problem of choosing between affect and effect or that and which or among and amongst. For the most part, it's imperative to choose the right word in order to avoid emails lambasting you for choosing the wrong one. Before I provide you with a link to sites that will help you avoid word confusion, let's take a look at these three examples:

  • Affect vs. Effect - The bad news is both words can be either a verb or a noun. The good news is that in most cases affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a noun. Affect means to influence something and effect essentially is a result or consequence of an action. When you affect something, you have an effect on that thing.

  • That vs. Which - Some people don't even know there's a time to use that and a time to use which. They think they're interchangeable. Just because I know that doesn't mean I always get it right. The that/which rule is complicated, but Grammar Girl has simplified it somewhat: ...use that before a restrictive clause and which before everything else." She defines a restrictive clause as follows: A restrictive clause is just part of a sentence that you can't get rid of because it specifically restricts some other part of the sentence..."Gems that sparkle often elicit forgiveness." ...The words that sparkle restrict the kind of gems you're talking about. Without them, the meaning of the sentence would change. Without them, you'd be saying that all gems elicit forgiveness, not just the gems that sparkle.

  • Among vs. Amongst - This is the easiest one to clear up. There is no difference between the two. They can be used interchangeably. Among is the most commonly used word, and Amongst is the more formal word. Which one is called for is entirely up to the occasion and/or your writing style.

Here are three websites to bookmark and use as part of your writing arsenal on your next project. You should be able to find your way through any future word confusion.

Grammar Girl on Quick and Dirty Tips

Confusing Words

Daily Writing Tips

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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