A Few Commonly Misused Words

The following is a selection of words that are commonly misused. They are pet peeves of mine when I see them in professional writing; especially mine. Lists like these are very common this one being prepared by Iowa Experiment Station Publications at Iowa State University. This leads me to a favorite editing technique of my own. Pick any of these words then take your longest most recently edited piece of writing and do a word search. See where it pops up and in what way it is used. Was it used correctly? Were you trying to sound more colloquial? Was it dialog? Then once you have determined its usage cut the little bastard out or substitute him for the proper word.

ACCURATE - (an accurate estimate) - accurate implies complete freedom from error or absolute exactness. Anestimate is an approximation. Try "a reliable estimate."

AND/OR - use one or the other. AND THEN - use one or the other.

CHECKED - (The traps were checked). imprecise. use 'examined' or another more precise word.

HOWEVER - do not use with another conjunction at the beginning of a sentence or independent clause ('However, because...' or 'However, since...').

IN ORDER TO - 'To' will suffice.

LESS(ER), FEW(ER) - 'less' refers to quantity, 'few' refers to number.

Now the original list is longer so I will include a link. But when you read through it remember that you don't necessarily have to edit out the words or usages. This is meant as a broad guide to clean up your writing. But strictly adhering to these lists as if they are unbreakable laws will lead to you sounding unreal. It is important to use information like this as guidelines that will let your own personal style emerge.


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