When it comes to writing—whether it’s for business, school or personal use—many of us rely on our word processor’s spelling- and grammar-check function to make sure our work is error free. While that may catch most misspellings and grammatical errors, it doesn’t account for context.
Here are 5 examples of everyday words that are commonly confused and some tips and examples to help you make the right word choice.
1. Their, They’re or Their?
Their is an adjective showing possession, they’re is a contraction meaning “they are” and there is an adverb that’s used most commonly to specify a location or a specific point of reference in a story or activity. It can be easy to type the wrong word when they all sound the same, but remember, each usage has its own distinctive spelling.
Their dog has a red collar.
They’re going to the movies this weekend.
The dog’s collar is over there.
2. It’s or Its?
It’s is a contraction meaning “it is,” while its signifies possession in the same way that yours, his and hers do. Like the previous example, the easiest way to remember which form of the word to use is to pay attention to spelling.
It’s time to leave the party.
My computer is running its routine maintenance this morning.
3. Your or You’re
Similar to the previous two examples, your and you’re are often confused due to sounding the same. Your signifies possession, however, while you’re is a contraction for “you are.”
Your dog has a red collar.
You’re going to be late if you don’t get up now.
4. Affect or Effect?
Affect, most often used as a verb meaning “to influence or produce an effect or material influence upon,” is often confused with effect, which is typically used as a noun signifying “a change that results when something is done or happens,” according to Merriam-Webster.com.
There are some exceptions though, like when effect is used as a verb (e.g., to effect change) or when affect is a noun (as in the field of psychology, where it refers to an emotion or a psychological state). As a general rule of thumb, though, if you can put “an” in front of it, the word you want is effect.
She isn’t letting the poor weather affect her mood.
Unfortunately, the rain has had an effect on her mood.
5. Except or Accept?
Except is typically used a preposition meaning “other than” or “excluding,” while accept is a verb meaning “to receive or take” something. To remember the correct usage for these two words, consider that the first two letters of except are “ex,” the same first letters in “exclude,” and something that’s been excepted has been excluded.
I’ll eat just about anything except for seafood.
He is accepting an award on Thursday evening.
Keep these tips in mind to avoid potentially embarrassing misuse of words.