Glossary of Usage

GLOSSARY
OF
USAGE
Presbyterian
College
English
Department
A
a,
an
Use a
before a consonant sound, an
before a vowel sound.
a
heavy load, a
nap, a
sound; an
island, an
honest man, an
umpire.
accept,
except
As a verb, accept
means “to receive”; except
means “to exclude.” Except
as a preposition
also means “but.”
Every senator except
Mr. Browning refused to accept the bribe.
We will except
(exclude) this novel from the list of those to be read.
advice,
advise
Advice
is a noun; advise
is a verb.
I advise
you to follow Estelle’s advice.
affect,
effect
Affect
is a verb meaning “to act upon, to influence, or to imitate.”
Effect
may be either a verb or a noun. Effect
as a verb means “to cause or to bring about”;
effect
as a noun means “a result or a consequence.”
The patent medicine did not affect
(influence) the disease.
Henry affected
the manner of an Oxford student. (imitated)
Henry effected
a change in his schedule. (brought about)
The effect
(result) of this change was that he had no Friday classes.
aggravate
Aggravate
means “to make more grave, to worsen.” A problem or condition is
aggravated. A person is not aggravated; a person is annoyed.
CORRECT: The heavy rains aggravated
the slippery roads.
CORRECT: The drivers were annoyed
by the slippery roads.
INCORRECT: The drivers were aggravated
by the slippery roads. CORRECT: Her
headache was aggravated
by the damp weather. INCORRECT: She was aggravated
by driving in the heavy traffic. CORRECT: She was annoyed
by driving in the heavy
traffic.
agree
to,
agree
with
Agree to a thing (plan, proposal); agree with a person.
He agreed
to
the insertion of the plank in the platform of the party. He agreed
with
the
senator that the plank would not gain many votes.
all
ready,
already
All
ready
means “prepared, in a state of readiness”; already
means “before some
specified time” and describes an action that is completed.
The players were all
ready
to begin. (fully prepared) They had already
started before
we arrived.
all
together,
altogether
All
together
describes a group as acting or existing collectively; altogether
means
“wholly, entirely.”
The players managed to start all
together.
I do not altogether
understand the decision.
allusion,
illusion
An allusion
is a casual reference. An illusion
is a false or misleading sight or impression.
The speaker made an allusion
to Hamlet.
a
lot
Colloquial. Do not use. Use a more specific term.
I bought several pairs of socks at the outlet (not a
lot
of socks).
allude,
elude,
refer
One alludes to a book or an event and eludes a pursuer. Do not confuse allude,
which is
an indirect reference, with refer,
which is a specific one.
Marjorie alluded
to the prisoner who had recently eluded
the police.
alright
Do not use. The accepted spelling is all
right.
altar,
alter
Altar
is a noun and is an elevated place, table, or other structure on or before which
religious sacrifices or ceremonies are performed. Alter
is a verb meaning to change,
modify, or make different.
among,
between
Among
is used with three or more persons or things; between
is used with only two. It
will be hard to choose between
the two candidates.
It will be hard to choose among
the many candidates.
amoral,
immoral
Something amoral
is outside morality and not be be judged by moral standards. The
behavior of animals and the orbits of planets are equally amoral.
Anything immoral
is a
violation of a moral standard. Stealing is considered to be an immoral
act.
amount,
number
Amount
refers to mass or quantity; number
refers to things which may be counted.
and/or
Do not use except in legal or business documents.
anxious,
eager
Anxious
means “apprehensive, doubtful, or uneasy” and is not synonymous with eager,
which means “to be impatient or to anticipate with pleasure.”
Martha is eager
to attend the reception, but she is anxious
about traveling across town
by herself.
any
one,
anyone
Anyone
is used in the sense of “anybody” and is written as one word. Any
one
means
“any single person” or “any single thing.”
Anyone
can pass this course.
Any
one
of your students can learn the material.
as
seen,
as
shown,
as
stated,
as
demonstrated,
etc.
Do not use.
INCORRECT: His crimes caused him to suffer, as
seen
in many of his actions.
CORRECT: Many of his actions show that his crimes caused him to suffer. The suffering
caused by his crimes is seen in many of his actions.
That his crimes caused him to suffer is seen in many of his actions.
as
to
whether,
as
to
why
Wordy. Whether
or why
is sufficient.
B
because
See reason
is(was)
because
below.
C
can,
may
Can
is used to denote ability; may
is used to denote permission. May
(not can)
I go to the
restroom?
He can
lift heavy loads easily.
capital,
capitol
Capitol
designates “a building which is a seat of government”; capital
is used for all
other meanings.
cannot
help
but
Do not use.
INCORRECT: I cannot
help
but
wonder about her honesty.
To correct: drop the word but and change the following word to an -ing word (gerund).
CORRECT: I cannot
help
wondering about her honesty.
center
around
Illogical: use center
in
(or
on)
or cluster
around.
childish,
childlike
Childish
means “disagreeably like a child.” Childlike
means “agreeably like a child.” The
childish
whining of the chronic complainer soon becomes unbearably boring. Picasso’s
canvasses express his childlike love of color.
cite,
sight,
site
Cite
is a verb meaning to mention a support, illustration, or proof. Sight,
as a noun or a
verb, has to do with seeing. Site,
as a noun or a verb, has to do with setting or location.
claim
Claim
means “to demand or ask for as one’s own or one’s due.” It is not synonymous with
such words as say.
CORRECT: He claimed
the reward.
CORRECT: He said (not claimed) that I was guilty.
climactic,
climatic
Climactic
refers to a climax; climatic
refers to climate.
complement,
compliment
To complement
means “to complete”; to compliment
means “to praise.” Both words can
also be nouns and have the adjective forms complementary and complimentary.
That sentence contains no complement.
June was embarrassed by the unexpected compliment.
conscience,
conscious
Do not confuse. Conscience
means “a knowledge of right and wrong; moral judgment.”
Conscious
means “awake” or “able to feel and think.”
consensus
of
opinion.
Do not use. The word consensus
itself denotes a general opinion.
contemptible,
contemptuous
Contemptible
means “deserving of scorn”; contemptuous
means “feeling scorn.” He is a
contemptible
person.
We are contemptuous
of his contemptible treatment of his parents.
continual,
continuous
Continual
means “repeated regularly and frequently.” Continuous
means “repeated
without interruption.”
cope
Do not use to mean “to deal with” or “to handle.”
John will have to learn to deal with his emotions (not to
cope
with).
could
of
Nonstandard for could have.
couple,
couple
of
Informal for two
or several.
Do not use in formal writing.
credible,
creditable,
credulous
Credible
means “believable”; creditable
means “worthy of praise”; a person is credulous
if he is ready to believe, especially if is so ready that he seems gullible.
CORRECT: His account of the accident was so credible
that no one will dispute it
CORRECT: His generosity to the college is most creditable.
CORRECT: He is credulous
enough to believe even the most incredible story
CORRECT: It is incredible [unbelievable] that even a credulous
[believing] person
would think that Mary’s work was creditable
[worthy of credit].
crisis
situation
Redundant. Crisis
is sufficient.
D
data,
media,
phenomena,
criteria
These words are the plural forms of the singular words datum,
medium,
phenomenon,
and criterion.
The datum
is misleading.
The data
are misleading.
deal
Do not use to mean “a bargain,” “a transaction,” or “a business arrangement.”
different
from,
different
than
Use different
from
to introduce nouns and pronouns, different
than
to introduce clauses.
Republicans are different
from
Democrats.
College is different
than
I expected it to be.
dilemma
Dilemma
does not mean “an acute problem.” It means “the necessary choice between
evenly balanced alternatives, most often unattractive ones.”
disinterested,
uninterested
Disinterested
means “objective, impartial, and unbiased.” Uninterested
means “without
any interest in” or “lacking in interest.”
We need a disinterested
person to settle our dispute, but Louise is obviously
uninterested
in our quarrel.
double
negative
Do not use such phrases as cannot
help
but,
cannot
hardly,
cannot
scarcely,
etc.
E
each
other,
one
another
Use each
other
when only two people or things are involved and one
another
when more
than two are involved.
The twins fought each
other.
The three brothers looked at one
another.
eminent,
imminent,
immanent
Eminent
means “distinguished” (He is an eminent
novelist); imminent
means “about to
happen, threatening” (The storm seemed imminent);
immanent
means “indwelling,
invading all creation” (Is the deity immanent
in the universe?).
ensure,
insure
Ensure
means “make sure” or “guarantee,” as “There is no way to ensure
that every
provision of the treaty will be honored.” Insure
means “to make a contract for payment in
the event of financial loss, damage, injury, or death,” as in “I insured the package for fifty
dollars.” It is possible to use both words in the same sentence: “We tried to ensure
that
our customers would insure
with us.” The difference between the two words should be
plain from their uses in this sentence.
enthused
Do not use. Enthusiastic
is the correct form.
epic,
play,
novel,
short
story
Do not confuse these terms.
The
Iliad
is an epic
and should not be referred to as a play.
Hamlet
is a play
and should
not be referred to as a story.
See story.
equally
as
good
A confusion of equally
good
and just
as
good.
Use either phrase in place of the incorrect
phrase equally
as
good.
Their TV set cost more than ours, but ours is equally
good.
(Not equally
as
good)
Our TV set is just as
good
as
theirs. (Not equally
as
good)
F
farther,
further
Use farther
in expressions of physical distance and further
in expressions of time,
quality, and degree.
My car used less gasoline and went farther
than his.
The second speaker went further
into the issues than the first.
feel,
think
Do not use the verb to feel
as a substitute for to think
or to believe.
Hamlet thinks
[not feels] that his mother has remarried too soon after his father’s death.
Lincoln believed
[not felt] that the nation had been founded on the principle of equality.
Use the verb to feel
for matters that are felt.
I feel
cold. The child feels
bad. I feel
sorry for Ted. I feel
depressed. John feels
sleepy.
fewer,
less
Use fewer
to denote number; less,
to denote amount or degree. Use fewer
to modify
things that can be counted.
There are fewer
flowers in the vase than there were yesterday.
There is less
flour in the bowl than when we began.
The American Heritage Dictionary says that less is used with plurals that indicate a unit,
such as distances (less than 150 miles), periods of time (less than twenty minutes), and
sums of money (less than two hundred dollars). Note that most words following fewer
are plural (fewer apples, calories, books); most words following less
are singular (less
fruit, weight, knowledge).
first,
start,
beginning
Do not use first
or start
as substitutes for beginning
when referring to a literary
composition.
At the beginning
of the play, a ghost appears to Hamlet’s friends. (Not At
the
start
or
At
the
first
of
the
play.)
former,
latter
Former
refers to the first named of two; latter
refers to the last named of two. If three or
more items are named, use first
and last
instead of former
and latter.
The Folger and the Huntington are two famous libraries; the former
is in Washington,
D. C., and the latter
is in California.
G
get,
got,
gotten
The preferable form of the past and past participle is got,
not gotten.
They returned
without having got
(not gotten)
any.
H
had
have,
had
of,
had
ought
Do not use for had.
If he had
tried, he would have won (Not If
he
had
have
[or
had
of]
tried,
he
would
have
won.)
hang,
hanged,
hung
When hang
means “to suspend,” hung
is its past tense. We hung
the picture last night.
When hang
means “to execute,” hanged
is its past tense. The prisoner was hanged
at
noon.
have
got
Do not use for have.
I have
to study more. (Not I
have
got
to
study
more.)
hopefully
Use hopefully
correctly as an adverb to mean “in a hopeful manner.” The puppy looked
hopefully
at his master.
Do not use hopefully
to mean “I hope.”
INCORRECT: Hopefully,
it will not rain this weekend. CORRECT: I
hope
that it will
not rain this weekend.
NOTE: Do not change hopefully
to “It is to be hoped that” or “I am hopeful that.”
human,
human
beings
Do not substitute human
or humans
for human
being
or human
beings.
Every human
being
(not human)
should want to learn.
Human
beings
(not Humans)
are often inconsistent.
I
imply,
infer
Imply
means “to hint” or “to suggest”; infer
means “to draw a conclusion.” The speaker
implied
that Mr. Dixon was guilty.
The audience inferred
that Mr. Dixon was guilty.
in,
into
Into
denotes motion from the outside to the inside; in
denotes position (enclosure). The
lion was in
the cage when the trainer walked into
the tent.
in
back
of
Do not use for behind.
INCORRECT: Albert was standing in
back
of
the curtain. CORRECT: Albert was
standing behind
the curtain.
in
regards
to
Do not use. Use in
regard
to
or with
regard
to.
irregardless
Do not use. The word is a mistaken fusion of irrespective
and regardless.
inter,
intra
As a prefix, inter
means “between” or “among” (Examples: international, intermarry);
intra
means “inside of” or “within” (Examples: intramural, intramuscular).
is
when,
is
where
It is ungrammatical to use an adverbial clause after a linking verb. Do not misuse in
definitions and explanations.
INCORRECT: A simile is
when
two essentially unlike things are compared.
CORRECT: A simile is the comparison of two unlike things.
its,
it’s
Its
is the possessive case of the pronoun it; it’s
is a contraction of it is. It’s
a wise child
that knows its
father.
K
kind
of,
sort
of
Do not use as adverbs. Use rather,
somewhat,
and
so
forth.
kind
of
a,
sort
of
a
Delete the a;
use kind
of
or sort
of.
What kind
of
(not kind
of
a)
pipe do you smoke?
L
learn,
teach
Learn
means “to acquire knowledge.” Teach
means “to impart knowledge.”
She could not learn
how to work the problem until Mrs. Smith taught
her the principles.
lend,
loan
In formal writing, loan
should be regarded as a noun and not as a verb. Will you lend
me
(not loan)
three dollars?
I will go to the bank for a loan.
lead,
led
Do not confuse. Lead
as a noun is a metal. Led,
not
lead,
is the past tense of the verb
lead.
like
Like
may be used as a verb or a preposition. It should not be used as a conjunction. When
like
is not being used as a verb, it should be followed by a substantive that is its object.
The word should not be used to introduce a clause.
Martha likes
to play tennis. (verb)
Martha plays tennis like
a professional. (preposition)
NOTE: “Like a professional” is a prepositional phrase used as an adverb modifying the
verb plays.
Martha plays as
though
(not like)
she enjoys the game.
likely,
liable
Use likely
to express probability; use liable,
which may have legal connotations, to
express responsibility or obligation.
You are likely
to have an accident if you drive recklessly. Since your father owns the
car, he is liable
for damages.
loose
Loose
is a frequent misspelling of lose. Loose
is an adjective; lose is a verb. She wore a
loose
and trailing gown.
Speculators often lose
their money.
lot
of,
lots
of
Do not use in the sense of much or many.
M
mad
Do not use as a substitute for angry.
Mad
should be used only to mean “insane.”
At the beginning of the play, Hamlet seemed angry
with
(not
mad
at)
his mother.
Later in the play, Hamlet seems to be mad;
many critics believe his madness
to be
feigned.
moral,
morale
Moral
is either a noun or an adjective. Morale
is a noun and has to do with mental or
emotional condition that demonstrates itself in confidence, enthusiasm, cheerfulness,
discipline, and willingness to perform assigned tasks.
What is the moral
of that story? (noun)
The moral
man was not elected. (adjective) The morale
of the platoon seems very high.
most
Do not use for almost
in such expressions as the following: He is late for class almost
(not
most)
every day.
myself,
yourself,
himself,
herself,
itself
These words are reflexives or intensives, not strict equivalents of I,
me,
you,
he,
she,
him,
her,
or it.
INTENSIVE
I myself
helped Father cut the wheat.
I helped Father cut the wheat myself.
REFLEXIVE
I cut myself.
Not:
The elopement was known only to Sherry and myself.
But: The elopement was
known only to Sherry and me. Not:
Only Alice and myself
had access to the safe.
But: Only Alice and I had access to the safe.
N
nice
Do not use as a substitute for more exact words like attractive,
modest,
pleasant,
kind,
and so forth. Nice
means “showing or marked by great precision and sensitive
discernment (a nice distinction) or executed with delicacy, accuracy, or skill (a nice bit of
craftsmanship).”
NUMBERS
There are several rules for using numbers that are appropriately placed in this glossary.
These rules are followed in standard written English. There may be exceptions if one is
writing technical reports that are filled with statistics or if one is writing dates, addresses,
times, or the numbers of pages, chapters, and the like.
1. Write out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words: There were ten thousand
people at the game. [not "10,000 people"] I drove ninety-five miles in two hours. [not "95
miles in 2 hours"]
NOTE: Rule one means that numbers from one to ninety-nine should normally be written
out.
2. Use figures for numbers that cannot be written out in one or two words. CORRECT:
There were 432 people in my chemistry class.
3. Do not begin a sentence with a number. INCORRECT: 350 people were on the ship.
CORRECT: On board the ship were 350 people.
4. Except in legal papers and in business contracts, do not repeat a written number with
figures in parentheses.
INCORRECT: Jesus had twelve (12) disciples.
CORRECT: Jesus had twelve disciples.
5. Separate with a comma each group of three figures in a number of four or more digits.
Exceptions for dates and addresses.
CORRECT: The car cost 12,375 dollars.
CORRECT: He lived at 2231 Whistlestop Road.
O
of
The word of
instead of have
is unacceptable, especially in such expressions as could
of,
may
of,
might
of,
must
of,
should
of,
and would
of.
The correct forms are could
have,
may
have,
might
have,
must
have,
should
have,
and would
have.
off
of,
inside
of,
outside
of,
out
of
Omit the of.
He fell off
(not
off
of)
the building.
He waited outside
(not
outside
of)
the building. He jumped out
(not
out
of)
the
window.
only
Only
should be placed as near as possible to the sentence element it modifies. Only
may
modify either words, phrases, or clauses.
INCORRECT: I only
want a few minutes of your time.
CORRECT: I want only
a few minutes of your time.
P
parameter
Informal for boundary, perimeter, or limit. Do not use.
plan
on
Use plan
followed by an infinitive rather than plan
on
followed by a gerund. I plan
to
leave early (not plan
on
leaving).
prejudice,
prejudiced
Do not confuse the noun prejudice
with its past tense form prejudiced.
See also suppose
and use
for similar errors.
I was a victim of prejudice
because the law was prejudiced
against me.
pretty
Do not use pretty
as an intensive.
I swim fairly well (not pretty well).
principal,
principle
Use principal
to mean “first in authority or importance.” Use principle
to mean “a rule”
or “a truth.” Both rule and principle end in -le.
What principle
did you use in solving that problem?
Evelyn is a woman of high principles.
The principal
speaker arrived late.
The principal
of the high school resigned yesterday. The principle
of justice is of
principal
importance.
prophecy,
prophesy
Prophecy
is a noun meaning “a prediction”; prophesy
is a verb meaning “to predict.”
Q
quiet,
quite
Quiet
means silence; quite
means really or entirely.
quote
Do not use as a noun. Quotation
is the noun.
The quotation
(not
quote)
came from the Bible. I put his words in quotation
marks
(not quotes).
R
reason
is
(was)
because
Do not use for the
reason
is
that.
Because
should introduce an adverbial clause, not a
noun clause used as a predicate nominative.
INCORRECT: The reason
Henry enlisted was
because
he failed in college.
CORRECT: The reason
Henry enlisted was
that
he failed in college.
CORRECT: Henry enlisted because he failed in college.
Note: To use reason
and because
together is redundant. It is illogical to use both words
to say the same thing.
recur,
recurred,
recurring,
recurrence
Do not substitute reoccur
for recur.
INCORRECT: I hope that this kind of accident does not reoccur. CORRECT: I hope that
this kind of accident does not recur.
relate
to
Trite in the sense of “sympathetic with” or “responsive to.” Do not use. INCORRECT:
Athena related
to
Odysseus’ problems.
CORRECT: Athena was responsive to Odysseus’ problems.
respectfully,
respectively
Respectfully
means “showing proper respect”; respectively
means “in the order
designated or mentioned.”
He respectfully
thanked the president for his diploma.
Crossing the platform, he passed respectively
by the speaker, the dean, and the
registrar.
S
shape
Do not use as a substitute for condition.
INCORRECT: Henry was in good shape
for the game. CORRECT: Henry was in good
condition for the game.
so
Do not use so
as a synonym for therefore. Do not use so
as an intensive. So
is properly
used in combination with that.
INCORRECT: I thought that the football player was so
handsome.
CORRECT: I thought that the football player was so
handsome that I would like to date
him.
INCORRECT: I was tired, so
I went to bed. CORRECT: Because I was tired, I went to
bed.
some
Do not use as a substitute for somewhat.
I am somewhat
better today.
sometime,
some
time
Sometime
is used adverbially to designate an indefinite point of time. Some
time
refers to
a period or duration of time.
I will see you sometime
next week.
I have not seen him for some
time.
start,
first
Do not use for beginning.
At the beginning
(not
start
or
first)
of the epic, warriors are dying.
stationary,
stationery
Stationary
means “in a fixed position.” Stationery
is writing paper. Hint: The -­er
in
stationery is like the -­er
in paper.
story
Do not use story
as a substitute for more specific terms such as epic,
poem,
play,
or
novel.
Use story
only when referring to a short story. Do not confuse the terms epic,
poem,
play,
novel,
and story.
suppose,
use
Do not confuse these words with the past tense forms. The medicine is
supposed
to
relieve pain (not suppose). Anne used
to arrive earlier (not use).
sure
and,
try
and
Use sure
to
and try
to
Be sure
to
(not
sure
and)
notice the changes in the schedule.
T
their,
there
These words are not interchangeable: their
is the possessive form of they; there
is either
an adverb meaning “in that place” or an expletive.
Their dog is standing there
by the flowers.
There
it is in the corner. (adverb)
There
are twenty-two people in the room. (expletive)
time
period
Time
period
is redundant. Use either time
or period,
but not both.
14
to,
too,
two
Distinguish the preposition to
from the adverb too
and the numeral two.
If it isn’t too
cold, I will take my two
poodles to
the park.
try
and
See sure
and
above.
U
unique
Unique
means “one of a kind”; therefore, it may not logically be compared. Unique
should not be loosely used for unusual or strange.
She owns the most unusual
(not
unique)
hat in town.
up
Do not add a superfluous up
to verbs.
We opened
(not
opened
up)
the box and divided
(not
divided
up)
the money.
use
See the entry under suppose,
use.
W
wait
on
Do not use for wait
for.
Wait
on
correctly means “to serve.” We waited
for
(not
waited
on)
Carrie at the station.
weather,
whether
Weather
means “atmospheric conditions”; whether
means “if.” I do not know whether
the weather
will be fair or foul.
where
at
The at
is unnecessary. INCORRECT: Where is he at? CORRECT: Where is he?
where
to
The to
is unnecessary.
INCORRECT: Where are you going to? CORRECT: Where are you going?
whose,
who’s
Whose
is the possessive form of who;
who’s
is a contraction of who
is.
-­wise
A suffix that is overused in combinations with nouns, such as budget-wise, progresswise,
and business-wise. Do not use.
would
have
Do not use would
have
as a substitute for had in an adverb clause beginning with if.
INCORRECT: If I would
have
gone to bed earlier last night, I would not be so sleepy
today.
CORRECT: If
I
had
gone to bed earlier last night, I
would
not be so sleepy today.
would
of
Nonstandard for would
have.
Y
you,
your
Do not use you
or your
as an indefinite pronoun. INCORRECT: You
should examine all
of the issues. CORRECT: The voter should examine all of the issues. INCORRECT: You
should change your oil frequently. CORRECT: Car owners should change their oil
frequently.