The Most Complete List of the Most Commonly Misused Words
Commonly misused words
You have found The Most Complete List of the Most Commonly Misused Words. Bookmark this page and come back often as I will add to it. Please feel free to add suggestions in the comments and I will add to this list as well. This is an annex to the series "How to: Creative Writing Tips" and is a complement to the second installment of the series: "Grammar" which discusses and lists some of the most commonly made punctuation mistakes.
an comes before a word beginning with a vowel or before a word that starts with a vowel sound.
"I'd like to have an egg for breakfast"
"Johnny left over an hour ago"
"Johnny tried to get an FHA loan"
a comes before a word beginning with a consonant.
"I never met a cat I didn't like"
Absorbent is an adjective that means able to absorb or soak up something.
"My new bath towels are extremely absorbent."
Exorbitant is an adjective that means greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation .
"She pays an exorbitant amount of rent living there."
Exuberant is adjective that means produced or growing in extreme abundance; joyously unrestrained; lavish or extravagant
"Johnny lived a very exuberant lifestyle"
Exorberent/Exorberant is not a word but many mistake if for exUberant
Accept is a verb that means receive willingly something given or offered
"Johnny will accept his award tonight"
Except is a verb that means prevent from being included or considered or accepted
"Johnny liked all of classes except Biology"
adis a noun that is short for "advertisement". You can always replace "ad" with "advertisement"
"I needed to sell my home so I placed an ad on craigslist"
Addis a verb that that comes from "addition". You cannot always replace addition with "Add"
"Johnny's teacher asked him to add the two numbers together."
Adverse is an adjective means contrary to your interests or welfare; opposing direction. You can replace "adverse" with "bad"
"Johnny was a victim of adverse circumstances" - (Johnny was a victim of bad circumstances)
Averse is an adjective that means having a strong feeling of opposition, antipathy, repugnance, unwilling, etc. You cannot replace "averse" with "bad"
"Johnny is not averse to having a drink from time to time". You wouldn't say, "Johnny is notbadto having a drink from time to time."
Advice is a noun and it means a proposal for an appropriate course of action
"Johnny asked for my advice on matters of the heart."
"Johnny took my advice yesterday and is glad he did."
advise is a verb that means to give information or notice to
"I tried to ask my boss for advice, but she advised me to stop asking."
"I advised Johnny yesterday about matters of the heart"
Affect is a noun or a verb meaning to have an emotional or cognitive impact upon
"I don't think the new rules will affect how I play the game"
"The new Walmart affected every small business in the area"
"His blunted affect may be a sign of mental illness"
Effect is a noun or a verb. As a noun it means something that is produced by an agency or cause; result;
"The law is still in effect"
"The effects of sleep loss are very noticeable"
"The magnetic effect was greater when the two irons were held steady"
Effectas a verb means to act so as to bring (somethign specific) into existence; produce (specifically); to cause something specific to happen.
"The movie had a profound effect on all Jews"
"The question really effected my sanity"
Aid is a noun or a verb. As a verb it means to help. As a noun it is a resource.
"Our goal was to aid the homeless" [v]
"The teacher used visual aids in her presentation" [n]
Aide is a noun that means someone who is helping or providing aid.
"The teacher's aide brought the visual aids to the classroom."
"The nurses aide was very generous and well trained."
Aisle is a noun that means passageway; corridor between two areas
"The bride walked down the aisle blissfully"
Isle is a noun that means island. You can always replace the word isle with island.
"The Carribean isle was too hot for my comfort"
allot is a verb that means to administer or give out; divide between
"Johnny alloted the pizza very generously."
"I choose to allot $3 every week from my allowance to give to charity."
a lot is an adverb that means to a very great degree or extent
"Johnny has a lot of homework to catch up on."
"Sad movies make her cry a lot"
A lot is not a word.
although is an adverb that means despite the fact that.
"Johnny loves cheese although he is allergice to it"
allthough is not a word.
all though is not a word. (or two words that should be placed next to each other)
amiss vs. remiss-
amiss is an adverb that means a mistake; away from correct or expected course; out of order
"Something went amiss in yesterday's game"
"I was amiss to think that she loved me"
remiss is an adverb that means failing in what duty requires; negligent; careless (you can usually replace "remiss" with "negligent"
"The new guy is terribly remiss of his work"
"It would be remiss of me not to mention my Father in my speech"
apart is an adjective that means separated or not taken into account; away from others or one
"Johnny and Sarah have beenapartfor two years but their love is still strong"
"Lets take the bike apart and put it back together again!"
"The twins are hard tell apart"
"The two cities are miles apart"
a part is not a word. However, the two words together mean a portion of something.
"Johnny is a part of the NFL's election comitte"
"That screw is a part of the bike"
"Her voice was only a part of the reason she won Miss America"
appraise is a verb that means to consider/assess or place value upon; to judge
"Johnny, a watch dealer, was asked to appraise his father's watch"
"She appraised the situation carefully before speaking"
apprise is a verb to make aware; gain in value; inform; advise
"I had to apprise my brother in the death of our father"
"Johnny will apprise Mary of her right to an attourney"
Are is the plural conjugation of the verb "to be" and is pronounced "r".
"How many people are going to the movies?"
Our is a "possessive pronominal adjective" and is pronounced like "hour"
"Johnny is our top salesman"
bare is a verb or an adjective. As a verb it means to make public. As an adjective it means to not have clothing; lacking extraneous coverings
"Bare your shoulders" [v]
"The bare walls were very uninviting"
"The bare bodies on the beach made me chuckle"
bear is a noun or a verb. As a noun it is a creature in the woods. (I'm sure everyone knows what a bear is so I won't elaborate) :) As a verb it means to have rightfully, or take upon the responsibility, or to bring fourth, or to bring in, or to be preganat
"She righfully bears the title of Dutchess"
"He has agreed to bear the responsibility of fatherhood"
"The apple tree bore delicious apples this year!" [past tense]
"I made zilch in my interest-bearing account"
"She is bearing his child"
bazaar is a noun that means "marketplace"
"We got our apples at the bazaar on 5th Av in downtown Chicago"
Bizarre is an adjective that means conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
"That bizarre painting fetched millions of dollars at the auction"
"His bizaare behavior led police to believe he was the culprit"
bona fide is a two word adjective that means "genuine" or "authentic" and should always be italicized.
"Johnny has a bona fide Mickey mantle baseball in his collection"
bonified is not a word.
breath is a noun that means the air that is inhaled through the respiration system. (rhymes with "death")
"She took a deep breath before jumping in the pool"
breathe is a verb that means to impart as if breathing. It also means draw air into the lungs, or to manifest, or tell. (rhymes with teethe)
"She breathed fresh air into the room by her presecene"
"I cannot breathe in this atmosphere"
"She threatened that we best not breathe a word to the jury"
buses is a noun that is the plural form of bus
"How many yellow buses did you see?
busses is a noun or verb. As a noun (used with an object) it is the act of caressing with the lips. As a verb it means to touch with the lips as an expression of love or greeting.
"Her buss left me speechless"
"The two lovers were locked in a passionate embrace of bussing"
"Her busses left a scent on his collar for his wife to find"
century is a noun that means 100 years. Can also delinate for a 100 people or things.
"The peace lasted for a century"
"Two centuries ago my family moved here from Alaska."
"A century of ants bombarded our pic-nic!"
Sentry is a noun that means a person employed to watch for something to happen
"The sentry was awarded the purple heart"
"Two lion statues stand sentry at the entrance to the palace."
cite is a verb that means to commend, refer to, or repeat a passage from
Johnny can cite every word of the play"
Her paper was cited for excellent grammar"
site is noun or a verb. As a noun it means a physical position or place. As a verb it means to assign a location to.
"The site next door is being renovated for a shopping center" [n]
"The soldier was able to site the cannon to pinpoint accuracy" [v]
"This is a lovely site." "That was the site of the most deadly Civil War battle." Note that "site" is a noun.
sight is a noun or a verb. As a noun it means the ability to see, or anything that is seen. As a verb it means to catch sight of; perceive with the eyes
"The sight of the old school brought back so many fond memories" [n]
"She was a sight for sore eyes" [n]
"I caught sight of the oncoming cars and warned the pedestrians" [v]
complementary is a noun or an adjective. As a noun it refers to the relationship of opposite colors on a color wheel. As an adjective that means forming a completion; to complete.
"Red and green are complementary colors on the color wheel and therefore should never be placed by one another" [n]
"She was my complement; without her I was not a whole man" [adj]
complimentary is an adjective that means costing nothing or conveying a compliment
"Thanks to the boss, the movie tickets were complimentary"
"Shelly gave Johnny a complimentary remark about his term paper"
copyright is a noun or a verb. As a noun it is a document that gives the right to publish. As a verb it means to secure the rights to publish.
"The copyright on that piece of paper is clearly legibel" [n]
"I failed to copyright my poem and lost millions"
copywrite is not a word. (however, someone that is employed to write advertising copies is deemed a "copywriter")
could/should/would have vs. could/should/would of- (Submitted by PhilPlasma)
could/should/would are modal verbs of indication and ought to be followed by the auxiliary verb "have" and never by the preposition "of".
"Johnny should have known better than to jump without looking"
"An updated resume would've landed her the job" [contraction for 'would have']
"Mary and Johnny could not have seen the gunman from where they were standing."
could of is improper and should not be used.
should of is improper and should not be used.
would of is improper and should not be used.
council is a a noun meaning a meeting of a group of people for consultation or a body serving in an administrative capacity
"The student council decided to veto the decision to ban water fountains in the gym"
"The defendant was advised by a council of lawyers."
counsel is a noun or a verb. As a noun it means something that provides direction or advice or is synonmous with theterm lawyer. As a verb it means to give advice to.
"His father acted as his counsel during his troubled times" [n]
"Is counsel for the defense present?" [n]
"The teacher counseld her students on the woes of adulthood" [v]
crevasse is a noun meaning a deep fissure.(often has a [literally] bigger meaning that crevice) (pronounced creh-vAhse where "vAhse" rhymes with "cause")
"The satelite detected a creavasse in the mountain range"
crevice is a noun meaning a long narrow fissure (usually construed as a very small or minute opening or crack)
"The crevice in the wall was just large enough for a mouse to squeeze through".
criterion is a noun that means the ideal in terms of which something can be judged as it pertains to one thing
"The key criterion for a successful relationship is trust"
"I judge my dates by one criterion: their IQ"
criteria is the plural form of criterion and cannot be singular
"The criteria needed for the job was extensive"
"The teacher's criteria for a perfect score was unattainable"
defuse is a verb that means to remove the fuse from; make less dangerous. (rhymes with reuse)
"She was able to defuse the situation before it escalated into a brawl"
"He deffused the bomb by cutting the red wire"
diffuse is a verb or an adjective. As a verb it means to spread out or scatter. As an adjective it describes something that has already been spread out and the "z" sound at the end turns into a soft "s"
"The fan diffused the smell of burnt cookies throughout the entire house" [v]
"My company is a large diffuse organization that spans 22 states."
Never use "than" after different
Correct: Jumping is different from hopping.
Incorrect: Jumping is different than hopping.
Dominate is a verb that means to be in complete control, tower over, or to be larger in number (when associating with numbers use "pre" before dominate)
"Her husbands completely dominates her"
"That team dominated their opponents in the preseason"
"Hispanics predominate this neighborhood"
Dominant is an adjective that means exercising influence or control
"Television plays a dominant role in society"
"Wheat is the dominant crop is the south"
effect vs. affect - See "affect"
Elicit is a verb that means to derive by reason; to call fourth emotions, feelings;
"She tried to elicit a response from him, but failed."
Illicit is an adjective that means contrary to accepted morality or law
"The preacher had an illicit association with the secretary"
"Johnny went to jail for selling illicit drugs."
Eminent is an adjective that means standing above others; an imposing height.
"R.S. Hutchinson is an eminent author having sold three bestsellers in one year"
"Mrs. Parker's class was an eminent group of scholars"
Imminent is an adjective that means close in time.
"Her father's passing is imminent"
"We all felt as though we were in imminent danger"
Ensure is a verb that means to make certain
"I had to ensure that we remebered to pack our coats"
Insure is a verb that means to take insurance out for; to protect by insurance.
"She was advised to insure her belongings with renter's insurance"
envelop is a verb that means to enclose or enfold completely with or as if with a covering (empahsis on en VEL op - sounds like develop)
"Johnny stood frozen as the fog began to envolp him"
envelope is a noun that means a wrapper or the maximum operating capabilty of a system. Most commonly used to mean something that you put a letter in and mail.
"The pilots were trying to push the envelope on that test"
"I need an envelope to mail this letter to my grandma"
epitaph is a noun that means an inscription on a tombstone or monument in memory of the person buried there; or a short summary for a dead person
"The epitaph on on Sammy Davis Jr's gravestone reads, 'The Entertainer: He did it all'"
"I read a beautiful epitaph for margaret in yesterday's obituaires"
epithet is a descriptive word or phrase or a defamatory or abusive word or phrase.
"He used 'man's best friend' as an epithet to describe his dog"
"The fight began over a racial epithet used by the customer"
every day is an adjective that means occurring each day and should be used when describing anything that is not dull. (You should be able to replace "every day" with "each day")
"Checking your email should be done every day"
everyday is an adjective that describes the dull, average, run of the mill, mundane
"I wear my everyday shoes to work because I don't care if they get dirty"
"The play was full of placid everday scenes which brought our attention to the actors"
except vs. accept- See "accept"
exorbitant vs. absorbent- See "absorbent"
famous is an adjective that means widely known and esteemed
"His painting is one of the most famous paintings to ever hang in this gallery"
"Oprah Winfrey is the most famous woman in the world"
infamous is an adjective that means having an exceedingly bad reputation
"That city is infamous for drugs"
"Adolf Hitler is perhaps the most infamous name in the world"
feel is a noun or a verb. As a noun it means an intuitive awareness or a property/atmosphere perceived by touch. As a verb it means perceive by a physical sensation or to examine by touch.
"The feel of the city excited him" [n]
"I could feel my skin getting colder" [v]
fell is the past tense of the verb "to fall".
"Johnny fell to his kness in prayer"
"I fell in love with her the first time I saw her"
feal is not a word.
gild is a verb that means to decorate with gold leaf or liquid gold. A common idiom is gild the lily which means to add uneccsary onamentaion; to add to something that is already complete or satisfactory.
"After he finished the painting he decided to gild the frame with spots"
"After that wonderful meal, serving a fancy dessert would be gilding the lily"
guild is a noun that means a formal association of people with similar interests
"The King asked the guild of traders to trade with other towns"
Hear is a verb that means to receive sound
"I can hear the trumpets"
Here is a noun or an adverb. As a noun it means the present location.As an adverb it means in or at this place; where the speaker or writer is, or in this circumstance or respect or on this point
"Where do we go from here?" [n]
"I work here" [av]
"What do we have here?" [av]
Hear, Hear! is an abbreviation for "hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!" It also means that one agrees with the person that is speaking.
Here, Here! is nothing
"hers" is the exception to the rule about posseision. You should never use an apostrophe before the "s"
Correct: "Mary knew the book was hers so she took it"
Incorrect: "Mary knew the book was hers so she took it"
I should be used when "me" doesn't sound right and vice versa.
"Johnny and I went to the class" - Take out "Johnny and" and see if the sentence still sounds correct? "I went to the class" It is correct.
You would not say "Me went to the class", therfore, you would not say, "Johnny and me went to the class" or "Me and Johnny went to the class"
"Johnny asked me and Susan a question" is correct because you can take out "and Susan" and the sentence still makes sense: "Johnny asked me a question".
You would not say,"Johnny asked I a question", therfore, you would not say, "Johnny asked I and Susan a question"
illicit vs. elicit - See "elicit"
imminent vs. eminent - See "eminent"
infamous vs. famous- See "famous"
insure vs. ensure - See "ensure"
Inter- is a prefix that means between or among (its focus is external)
"Florida played an interleague match against Georgia"
intra- is a prefix that means on the inside or within (its focus is external)
"Since the women's roller derby league had two teams, they played an intraleague bout to determine who would play against the visiting team from out of state"
"The intracoastal waterway was blocked this morning due to an accident"
into is a preposition that means to the inside of, or a transformation
"John walked into the store"
"Johnny turned into a beast after he drank the liquid"
"We jumped into the pool"
in to is two words whereas "in" refers to part of the sentence that preceeds it, and "to" refers to part of the sentence that proceeds it.
"Johnny went in to take a nap" (Johnny went in [period] to take a nap [period])
"We jumped in to cool off" (we jumped in [period] to cool off [period])
Irregardless is not a word. the correct term is "regardless"
isle vs. aisle - See "aisle"
It’s, with an apostrophe, is a contraction of the words "it is or it has"
"It's all in how you throw the ball"
"It's been a long time"
Its (no apostrophe) is the possessive form of the pronoun "it",
"That dog has its own house"
"Her car reatined its abilty to operate even after the accident"
Less is an adjective that means fewer; lower in quality
"We have less than three weeks until we get married"
"His annunciation is no less than perfect"
Lest is an adverb that means for that, or "that"
"He didn't start the engine lest his father might wake up"
"He worried lest he should be late"
lets is a verb that means to allows something to be done
"He lets his child run around the store screaming and yelling"
let's is a contraction for "let us"
"Let's get ready for the movies"
Lightening is a noun that means to change to a lighter color or as a verb that means to make something weigh less.
"She was caught lightening her hair and her mother punished her"
"The rain was lightening up which made it easier to drive"
lightning is a noun that means a flash of light that accompanies an electric discharge in the atmosphere.
"The thunder and lightning was quite scary"
Lose is a verb that means fail to obtain, fail to maintain, allow to go our of sight. (the "s" is pronounced as a "z")
"If we don't make this shot, we will lose the game"
Loose is a verb or an adjective. As a verb it means to make loose or less tight. As an adjective it means not carefully arranged, not restrained or attached.
"His belt was loose after he lost weight"
"Her dog was running loose yesterday"
me vs. I- See "I"
media is a noun that is the plural form of medium
"The mainstream news media have been accused of libel"
"The art show included works from differing media"
"Her art was a mixed media piece"
Medium is a noun that means an intervening substance through which something is achieved, or a midway point.
"He chose to work with a more responsible medium"
"Fish require an aqueous medium"
Passed is a verb that means out of fashion, or something that has gone by.
"I passed the second grade two times"
"She passed the lead car at the last minute during the race"
Past is a noun or an adjective. As a noun it means a verb tense that expresses actions in the past. as an adjective it means earlier than the present time.
"The investigators dug into the culprit's past" [n]
"In past times children would honor their parents" [adj]
pastime is a noun that means a diversion to occupy one's time and thoughts
"His favorite pastime was to go down by the river and throw rocks"
Past time is two words that mean time has already gone by
"It's past time for NASA to send a man to Mars"
Perspective is a noun that means the appearance of things or point of view
"He did not change my perspective on the ruling"
"If he could see things from a new perspective, he may want to live."
Prospective is an adjective that means to be concerned with the future
"I held interviews for prospective roomates on Sunday"
"She excited about her prospective date for the night"
principal is a noun that refers to a person with authority, or the top level of a thing
"The principal of the school was fired for missing too many days of work"
"The principal of the loan was much more than he could afford"
Principle is a noun that means a basic truth or law
"The preacher was a man of high moral principles"
Sell is a verb that means give up for a price or reward
"He tried to sell me his shoes"
sale is a noun that means a particular instance of selling or the state of being purchasable
"The sale of drugs is frowned upon in the school system"
"The shoes were on sale so we bought two pair"
"There was a rummage sale yesterday"
should have vs. should of- See "could"
sight vs. site- See "cite"
Stationary is an adjective that means standing still
"The sentry was stationary"
"The car remained stationary while the engine was running"
Stationery is a noun that means paper that is cut into a size for for writing letters usually with matching envelopes
"I ordered new stationery for the office that has our letterhead on it"
Than is a word indicating comparison between two things,
"I'd rather have an apple than an orange"
"There is no greater feeling than the feeling you get when riding on a motorcycle"
then is indicitive of something that follows, an order
"First we get up, then we shower"
"We are going to the movies, then we are going to the club"
Therfor is to be used "for it".
"Jim is ordering supplies and enclosing payment therefor"
Therfore is to be used as "a reason from a result"
"Johnny was sick, therefore he stayed home from school"
"I think; therefore, I am"
There is most often used as a noun that means a place or as an adverb that means in or at that place
"You can take it from there" [n]
"Johnny has lived there for years" [adv]
There is the possessive form of the pronoun "they",
"Their play was a huge hit"
"They played with their toys well into the night"
"They're" is a contraction of the two words "they are".
"If they're going to be late, we should wait for them"
"They're going to invent a new computer that can read minds"
Titles for people such as mayors, governors, judges, etc. should be capitalized only when being used in conjunction with, or substituted for, their names
"I met with Judge Harper and we discussed the case"
"I waved Officer Johns over to help defuse the situation"
When used as a generic term for the position, these same titles should not be capitalized. A good rule to remember is that if they are preceded by "the" or "a", they're not capitalized.
"The mayor came to our tent and shook my hand"
"The preacher gave a great sermon"
To is a preposition that can mean "toward"
"She is going to class"
"I was going to ask her to come with me"
Too is an adverb that means excessive or also
"There are way too many pencils on your desk"
"He too has a cell phone"
Two is the spelled-out version of the numeral 2
"Johnny had two dates lined up for the night"
undo is a verb that means to cancel, annul, or reverse an action or effect
"If I could undo all the trouble I've caused, I would"
undue is an adjective that means lacking justification (not due)
"He had a desire for undue private profit"
"He was given an undue punishment"
Unique is an adjective that means highly unusual radically distinctive and one of a kind
"He is a truly unique performer"
"His unique perspective propelled him to the top of the class"
"He spoke with a unique accent"
more unique is improper usage and should not be used.
most unique is improper usage and should not be used.
very unique is improper usage and should not be used.
Who's is a contraction of the words "who is" or "who has"
"Who's going to the market today?"
whose is the possessive form of the pronoun "who".
"Whose office will we be decorating for the party?"
"I need to now whose shirt this belongs to"
would have vs. would of- See "could"
worse is an adjective that means inferior
"I feel worse today"
"This road is worse than the one we took yesterday"
worst means the absolute weakest or poorest; most undesirable
"That was the worst dinner I've ever tasted"
"What's the worst that could happen"