How’s your vocabulary feeling these days? Want to give it a quick exam?
Jessica, our amazing intern, recently livened up our Inspiration for Writers group email by asking our editors and writers to share common errors they find in manuscripts. She planned to gather them into a blog article. And, man, did our editors respond. The list of common errors grew long. In fact, it grew so long, we had to break the responses into multiple articles. So, this article will be first in a series of two (or three, or who knows?). And, to make things fun, we’ll make this one a quiz. So, put on your rubber gloves and see how you do. Don’t worry—answers will be given at the end.
1. I pulled my car into the media/median/medium and stopped.
2. For all my intensive purposes/intents and purposes, I still didn’t make it to the meeting on time.
3. She took it for granite/granted that we’d be here waiting for her.
4. If it's any constellation/consolation, I missed five questions.
5. Irregardless/regardless, someone has to tell her she’s dragging toilet paper.
6. Anyone up for an expresso/espresso?
7. All accept/except for Janie, no one had a perfect score.
8. She brought over olive oil and a crucifix to exercise/exorcise the evil spirit.
9. See how far you can press the gas peddle/pedal.
10. As far as I’m concerned, it's a mute/moot point.
11. The doc said my leg pain is due to a congenial/congenital defect.
12. In the passed/past, she would simply run faster as she passed/past the house.
13. Can you insure/ensure me this package is ensured/insured?
14. The chapel evoked/invoked memories of the day I had evoked/invoked the Madonna’s help.
15. Does it look like the altar/alter cloth has been altared/altered?
16. I always loose/lose my loose/lose change.
17. When I told him to breath/breathe, I didn’t expect to feel his breath/breathe on my neck.
18. It really peeks/piques/peaks my interest to peak/peek/pique at the mountain pique/peak/peek.
19. If I could just find a place to lay/lie my bag and lay/lie down, I’d be happy.
20. She laid/lay/lie the book on the table and laid/lay/lie down.
21. Between/among the three of us, Jackie is the tallest.
22. Between you and me/I, it’s getting colder in here.
23. Is it all right/allright/alright with you if I sit in the back for awhile/a while?
24. Who gave heroin/heroine to the heroin/heroine?
25. How much further/farther is it?
1. I pulled my car into the median and stopped.
2. For all my intents and purposes, I still didn’t make it to the meeting on time.
3. She took it for granted that we’d be here waiting for her.
4. If it's any consolation, I missed five questions.
5. Regardless, someone has to tell her she’s dragging toilet paper.
6. Anyone up for an espresso? (The editor who submitted this one commented that “expresso” is “espresso on steroids.”)
7. All except for Janie, no one had a perfect score.
8. Howard brought over olive oil and a crucifix to exorcise the evil spirit. (Unless, as the submitting editor suggested, the evil spirit was overweight and Howard was his personal trainer.)
9. See how far you can press the gas pedal.
10. As far as I’m concerned, it's a moot point. (The contributing editor stated she wished some points were mute.)
11. The doc said my leg pain is due to a congenital defect.
12. In the past, she would simply run faster as she passed the house.
13. Can you ensure me this package is insured?
14. The chapel evoked memories of the day I had invoked the Madonna’s help.
15. Does it look like the altar cloth has been altered?
16. I always lose my loose change.
17. When I told him to breathe, I didn’t expect to feel his breath on my neck.
18. It really piques my interest to peek at the mountain peak.
19. If I could just find a place to lay my bag and lie down, I’d be happy. (This sentence is in present tense. “Lay” means to set or place. “Lie” means to recline.)
20. She laid the book on the table and lay down. (This sentence is in past tense. Just a little confusing—especially since the past tense of “lie” is “lay.” Confusion between “lay” and “lie” and their conjugations is perhaps the most common error we see. Is it any wonder?)
21. Among the three of us, Jackie is the tallest. (“Between” is used when referring to two people; “among” is used when referring to more than two. Likewise, “each other” is generally used to refer to the involvement of two people, and “one another” usually refers to the involvement of more than two people, although the lines on this one can blur in actual usage.)
22. Between you and me, it’s getting colder in here.
23. Is it all right with you if I sit in the back for a while? (Okay, this was a trick question. The only correct spelling—ever—in any situation—is all right and a while. I promise!)
24. Who gave heroin to the heroine?
25. How much farther is it? (Farther measures distance. Further refers to ideas. Example: Nothing could be further from the truth.)
We had fun compiling this list of confusing words, and I hope you had equal fun taking our little quiz. Many times, even though we know the right word, our fingers take on a life of their own and type in the wrong word. Worse, our brain knows what we meant, so it doesn’t throw up any flags to tell us we’ve erred. This is why even professional editors have another editor review their work. And we’re always here to review yours (see http://www.inspirationforwriters.com/editing/services.html for more information).
If you have any questions about any of these usages, please just leave a comment and we’ll be happy to clarify. And, finally, what words do you confuse? Let us know in a comment below.