Monday, August 18, 2014

Some confusing words

Gutenberg press woodcut
from Wikipedia
A friend of mine was sweet enough to proofread part of my upcoming book, tentatively titled Zombie Apocalypse, Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas. Don't worry, I'm sure that won't be the final title (almost sure).

She had some issues with words I used and I had to do some investigation. I thought I'd share.

BLOND is an adjective describing something, man or woman. BLONDE is a noun meaning a female with fair hair (and not a male with fair hair). "The blonde picked a blond puppy from the litter."

FURTHER is a conceptual distance. FARTHER is a physical one. That usually works, but when in doubt you're safe using further. "As he went farther into the jungle his mind retreated further from reality."

My eldest son asked me a question about where I wrote the word averse - that maybe it should have been adverse. ADVERSE is something harmful and AVERSE is a strong feeling of dislike. "I am averse to adverse effects of drugs."

Affect is a verb and Effect is a noun. That doesn't help? If the word denotes influence or action, use AFFECT. If it is a result, use EFFECT. "The rain affected Tom's mood, but had no effect on Lucy."

You COMPLIMENT someone when you say something nice to them, so it is an admiring remark. When things COMPLEMENT each other, they go well together.

Please, oh please get this one right. If you can replace the word with "it is" then the correct form is IT'S. If the meaning of your word is possessive, use ITS. I don't even have a clever sentence for this one (though I was going to use "If it's possessive, use 'its'.")

Along the same lines, YOUR is possessive. YOU'RE is a contraction for YOU ARE. If YOU'RE sure it's possessive, use YOUR. (See how I tossed the IT'S in there, too? You can COMPLIMENT me in the comments.)

There are a lot of confusing English words. These simply touch the surface. For hundreds more, try The Grammar Monster's section for confusing words. I also like Grammar Girl (she's pretty famous and has a lot more than simply confusing words).

A few years ago I did a post on why English was hard, and these should have been among those confusing words. And they should not be confused with the other confusing word category - contronyms! I'll leave that for another post.

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