Words Often Confused:

Your readers want to trust you as a writer, and one way to win their trust is to avoid misusing words. Here are some common examples.

(1) less/fewer

The word less is used with uncountable objects; fewer is used with countable objects:

I don’t want that many potatoes: please give me fewer.

I don’t want that much gravy: please give me less.

(2) effect/affect (noun)

The word effect as a noun means the impact something causes; affect as a noun means someone’s appearance or psychological state:

The crash had a major effect on his life.

His affect was one of polite friendliness.

(3) effect/affect (verb)

The word effect as a verb means to bring about, or cause something to happen; affect as a verb means to change something:

Prescribed medication may effect her recovery (ie. cause her to get better).

Continued drinking may affect his recovery (ie. slow down his recovery or prevent him from getting better).

(4) among/between

The word among is used for a group, without differentiating between them; between is used with individual, named items or people:

Asked if she had one best friend, she couldn’t decide among all the people she knew.

Asked if he had one best friend, he couldn’t decide between Vic and Bob.

(5) infer/imply

To infer is to read a meaning into a statement which has not been explicitly stated; to imply is to suggest or to hint at something (usually something negative):

She asked if I had joined a gym yet. I inferred that she thought I needed to take more exercise, and I resented what she was implying.




Posted in Advice to Writers.

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