What’s in a Word? Plenty, When Used Correctly

A friend recently shared an article from The Economist about why language is not writing and it got me thinking about the subtleties of word selection. A poor word choice in one’s writing can entirely undercut the intended idea or message being conveyed and, worse, devalue the credibility of the author.

This principle is never far from my mind as I edit (and I edit almost as much as I write). Often, I edit while I write. Frequently, I even mentally edit public copy, such as billboards, website copy, newspapers and even books that I come across. It’s an occupational hazard, I suppose. I am continually amazed at how frequently some words are incorrectly used in copy that has been reviewed, proof-read and approved (ostensibly) by someone paid to write and/or edit. I’m not saying that I catch everything either, but there is a pattern in the poorly used words that I encounter.

So, here are some of the most commonly misused words. I won’t insult your intelligence by defining these for you (hey, my name isn’t Webster), but I do wish to share these out of principle (or is it principal?) in the hope that you’ll think twice the next time it’s your turn to write.

capital versus capitol
effect versus affect
principle versus principal
elude versus allude
allusion versus illusion
illicit versus elicit
insure versus ensure
regardless versus irregardless (hint: the latter doesn’t exist)

Here are more as suggested by Chemunity readers…
loose versus lose (really?!?!)
its versus it’s

Are there others? Tweet them to us @Chempetitive