before a consonant sound, an
before a vowel sound.
heavy load, a
honest man, an
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.
is a noun; advise
is a verb.
you to follow Estelle’s advice.
is a verb meaning “to act upon, to influence, or to imitate.”
may be either a verb or a noun. Effect
as a verb means “to cause or to bring about”;
as a noun means “a result or a consequence.”
The patent medicine did not affect
(influence) the disease.
the manner of an Oxford student. (imitated)
a change in his schedule. (brought about)
(result) of this change was that he had no Friday classes.
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
Agree to a thing (plan, proposal); agree with a person.
the insertion of the plank in the platform of the party. He agreed
senator that the plank would not gain many votes.
means “prepared, in a state of readiness”; already
means “before some
specified time” and describes an action that is completed.
The players were all
to begin. (fully prepared) They had already
describes a group as acting or existing collectively; altogether
The players managed to start all
I do not altogether
understand the decision.
is a casual reference. An illusion
is a false or misleading sight or impression.
The speaker made an allusion
Colloquial. Do not use. Use a more specific term.
I bought several pairs of socks at the outlet (not a
One alludes to a book or an event and eludes a pursuer. Do not confuse allude,
an indirect reference, with refer,
which is a specific one.
to the prisoner who had recently eluded
Do not use. The accepted spelling is all
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.
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.
is outside morality and not be be judged by moral standards. The
behavior of animals and the orbits of planets are equally amoral.
violation of a moral standard. Stealing is considered to be an immoral
refers to mass or quantity; number
refers to things which may be counted.
Do not use except in legal or business documents.
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
is used in the sense of “anybody” and is written as one word. Any
“any single person” or “any single thing.”
can pass this course.
of your students can learn the material.
Do not use.
INCORRECT: His crimes caused him to suffer, as
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.
is used to denote ability; may
is used to denote permission. May
I go to the
lift heavy loads easily.
designates “a building which is a seat of government”; capital
is used for all
Do not use.
INCORRECT: I cannot
wonder about her honesty.
To correct: drop the word but and change the following word to an -ing word (gerund).
CORRECT: I cannot
wondering about her honesty.
Illogical: use center
means “disagreeably like a child.” Childlike
means “agreeably like a child.” The
whining of the chronic complainer soon becomes unbearably boring. Picasso’s
canvasses express his childlike love of color.
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.
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
CORRECT: He said (not claimed) that I was guilty.
refers to a climax; climatic
refers to climate.
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.
Do not confuse. Conscience
means “a knowledge of right and wrong; moral judgment.”
means “awake” or “able to feel and think.”
Do not use. The word consensus
itself denotes a general opinion.
means “deserving of scorn”; contemptuous
means “feeling scorn.” He is a
We are contemptuous
of his contemptible treatment of his parents.
means “repeated regularly and frequently.” Continuous
Do not use to mean “to deal with” or “to handle.”
John will have to learn to deal with his emotions (not to
Nonstandard for could have.
Informal for two
Do not use in formal writing.
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
would think that Mary’s work was creditable
[worthy of credit].
These words are the plural forms of the singular words datum,
Do not use to mean “a bargain,” “a transaction,” or “a business arrangement.”
to introduce nouns and pronouns, different
to introduce clauses.
Republicans are different
College is different
I expected it to be.
does not mean “an acute problem.” It means “the necessary choice between
evenly balanced alternatives, most often unattractive ones.”
means “objective, impartial, and unbiased.” Uninterested
any interest in” or “lacking in interest.”
We need a disinterested
person to settle our dispute, but Louise is obviously
in our quarrel.
Do not use such phrases as cannot
when only two people or things are involved and one
than two are involved.
The twins fought each
The three brothers looked at one
means “distinguished” (He is an eminent
means “about to
happen, threatening” (The storm seemed imminent);
invading all creation” (Is the deity immanent
in the universe?).
means “make sure” or “guarantee,” as “There is no way to ensure
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
our customers would insure
with us.” The difference between the two words should be
plain from their uses in this sentence.
Do not use. Enthusiastic
is the correct form.
Do not confuse these terms.
is an epic
and should not be referred to as a play.
is a play
not be referred to as a story.
A confusion of equally
Use either phrase in place of the incorrect
Their TV set cost more than ours, but ours is equally
Our TV set is just as
theirs. (Not equally
in expressions of physical distance and further
in expressions of time,
quality, and degree.
My car used less gasoline and went farther
The second speaker went further
into the issues than the first.
Do not use the verb to feel
as a substitute for to think
or to believe.
[not feels] that his mother has remarried too soon after his father’s death.
[not felt] that the nation had been founded on the principle of equality.
Use the verb to feel
for matters that are felt.
cold. The child feels
bad. I feel
sorry for Ted. I feel
depressed. John feels
to denote number; less,
to denote amount or degree. Use fewer
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).
Do not use first
as substitutes for beginning
when referring to a literary
At the beginning
of the play, a ghost appears to Hamlet’s friends. (Not At
refers to the first named of two; latter
refers to the last named of two. If three or
more items are named, use first
instead of former
The Folger and the Huntington are two famous libraries; the former
is in Washington,
D. C., and the latter
is in California.
The preferable form of the past and past participle is got,
without having got
Do not use for had.
If he had
tried, he would have won (Not If
means “to suspend,” hung
is its past tense. We hung
the picture last night.
means “to execute,” hanged
is its past tense. The prisoner was hanged
Do not use for have.
to study more. (Not I
correctly as an adverb to mean “in a hopeful manner.” The puppy looked
at his master.
Do not use hopefully
to mean “I hope.”
it will not rain this weekend. CORRECT: I
that it will
not rain this weekend.
NOTE: Do not change hopefully
to “It is to be hoped that” or “I am hopeful that.”
Do not substitute human
should want to learn.
are often inconsistent.
means “to hint” or “to suggest”; infer
means “to draw a conclusion.” The speaker
that Mr. Dixon was guilty.
The audience inferred
that Mr. Dixon was guilty.
denotes motion from the outside to the inside; in
denotes position (enclosure). The
lion was in
the cage when the trainer walked into
Do not use for behind.
INCORRECT: Albert was standing in
the curtain. CORRECT: Albert was
Do not use. Use in
Do not use. The word is a mistaken fusion of irrespective
As a prefix, inter
means “between” or “among” (Examples: international, intermarry);
means “inside of” or “within” (Examples: intramural, intramuscular).
It is ungrammatical to use an adverbial clause after a linking verb. Do not misuse in
definitions and explanations.
INCORRECT: A simile is
two essentially unlike things are compared.
CORRECT: A simile is the comparison of two unlike things.
is the possessive case of the pronoun it; it’s
is a contraction of it is. It’s
a wise child
that knows its
Do not use as adverbs. Use rather,
Delete the a;
pipe do you smoke?
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.
In formal writing, loan
should be regarded as a noun and not as a verb. Will you lend
I will go to the bank for a loan.
Do not confuse. Lead
as a noun is a metal. Led,
is the past tense of the verb
may be used as a verb or a preposition. It should not be used as a conjunction. When
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.
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
Martha plays as
she enjoys the game.
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
is a frequent misspelling of lose. Loose
is an adjective; lose is a verb. She wore a
and trailing gown.
Speculators often lose
Do not use in the sense of much or many.
Do not use as a substitute for angry.
should be used only to mean “insane.”
At the beginning of the play, Hamlet seemed angry
Later in the play, Hamlet seems to be mad;
many critics believe his madness
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)
man was not elected. (adjective) The morale
of the platoon seems very high.
Do not use for almost
in such expressions as the following: He is late for class almost
These words are reflexives or intensives, not strict equivalents of I,
helped Father cut the wheat.
I helped Father cut the wheat myself.
I cut myself.
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.
Do not use as a substitute for more exact words like attractive,
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
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
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.
The word of
instead of have
is unacceptable, especially in such expressions as could
The correct forms are could
Omit the of.
He fell off
He waited outside
the building. He jumped out
should be placed as near as possible to the sentence element it modifies. Only
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.
Informal for boundary, perimeter, or limit. Do not use.
followed by an infinitive rather than plan
followed by a gerund. I plan
leave early (not plan
Do not confuse the noun prejudice
with its past tense form prejudiced.
See also suppose
for similar errors.
I was a victim of prejudice
because the law was prejudiced
Do not use pretty
as an intensive.
I swim fairly well (not pretty well).
to mean “first in authority or importance.” Use principle
to mean “a rule”
or “a truth.” Both rule and principle end in -le.
did you use in solving that problem?
Evelyn is a woman of high principles.
speaker arrived late.
of the high school resigned yesterday. The principle
of justice is of
is a noun meaning “a prediction”; prophesy
is a verb meaning “to predict.”
means silence; quite
means really or entirely.
Do not use as a noun. Quotation
is the noun.
came from the Bible. I put his words in quotation
Do not use for the
should introduce an adverbial clause, not a
noun clause used as a predicate nominative.
INCORRECT: The reason
Henry enlisted was
he failed in college.
CORRECT: The reason
Henry enlisted was
he failed in college.
CORRECT: Henry enlisted because he failed in college.
Note: To use reason
together is redundant. It is illogical to use both words
to say the same thing.
Do not substitute reoccur
INCORRECT: I hope that this kind of accident does not reoccur. CORRECT: I hope that
this kind of accident does not recur.
Trite in the sense of “sympathetic with” or “responsive to.” Do not use. INCORRECT:
CORRECT: Athena was responsive to Odysseus’ problems.
means “showing proper respect”; respectively
means “in the order
designated or mentioned.”
thanked the president for his diploma.
Crossing the platform, he passed respectively
by the speaker, the dean, and the
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.
Do not use so
as a synonym for therefore. Do not use so
as an intensive. So
used in combination with that.
INCORRECT: I thought that the football player was so
CORRECT: I thought that the football player was so
handsome that I would like to date
INCORRECT: I was tired, so
I went to bed. CORRECT: Because I was tired, I went to
Do not use as a substitute for somewhat.
I am somewhat
is used adverbially to designate an indefinite point of time. Some
a period or duration of time.
I will see you sometime
I have not seen him for some
Do not use for beginning.
At the beginning
of the epic, warriors are dying.
means “in a fixed position.” Stationery
is writing paper. Hint: The -er
stationery is like the -er
Do not use story
as a substitute for more specific terms such as epic,
only when referring to a short story. Do not confuse the terms epic,
Do not confuse these words with the past tense forms. The medicine is
relieve pain (not suppose). Anne used
to arrive earlier (not use).
notice the changes in the schedule.
These words are not interchangeable: their
is the possessive form of they; there
an adverb meaning “in that place” or an expletive.
Their dog is standing there
by the flowers.
it is in the corner. (adverb)
are twenty-two people in the room. (expletive)
is redundant. Use either time
but not both.
Distinguish the preposition to
from the adverb too
and the numeral two.
If it isn’t too
cold, I will take my two
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
hat in town.
Do not add a superfluous up
the box and divided
See the entry under suppose,
Do not use for wait
correctly means “to serve.” We waited
Carrie at the station.
means “atmospheric conditions”; whether
means “if.” I do not know whether
will be fair or foul.
is unnecessary. INCORRECT: Where is he at? CORRECT: Where is he?
INCORRECT: Where are you going to? CORRECT: Where are you going?
is the possessive form of who;
is a contraction of who
A suffix that is overused in combinations with nouns, such as budget-wise, progresswise,
and business-wise. Do not use.
Do not use would
as a substitute for had in an adverb clause beginning with if.
INCORRECT: If I would
gone to bed earlier last night, I would not be so sleepy
gone to bed earlier last night, I
not be so sleepy today.
Nonstandard for would
Do not use you
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