Tag Archives: misusing words

Misusing words

25 Apr

Why does using exactly the right word matter? The simple answer is, because it makes your meaning clear.

There are many words that are commonly misused. In speech that often doesn’t matter: no-one can hear that you’re confusing draft with draught, flair with flare, or practice with practise, but it does matter when you write. These are a few of the most commonly misused or confused words.

“Affect” (verb, to influence or change), “effect” (noun, the result of the change). Effect is also a transitive verb, to do or make something, but is rarely used.
“Biannual” is twice a year, “biennial” is every other year.
“Continuously” (uninterrupted), is often used when what is meant is “continually” (regularly or frequently), or “constantly” (happening repeatedly). If, for example, the sun shone “continuously” on holiday, it never stopped; if a neighbour “continually” complains about noise, he does if frequently; if a person often has colds it might make him or her “constantly” absent from work.
“To compliment” is to praise, “to complement” is to add something, to complete it.
“Disorganised” is something that was organised, but has been muddled, “unorganised” was not organised in the first place.
“To distract” is to divert someone’s attention, “to detract” is to diminish or to take something away.
A “misanthropist” hates everyone, a “misogynist” hates women.

There are, of course, many, many more but, as always, make sure you say/write what you mean and be sure that the word you use means what you think it does.

Today’s picture

I have a new camera, a Sony XH300 – a lightweight SLR with an integrated zoom lens. I’m trying it out. These swans were on the Serpentine in Hyde Park.