Word Choice


When spoken, accept and except can sound identical, so it’s no wonder that someone might confuse them in writing. Here is the difference:

Accept is to willingly receive.

Please accept this gift of appreciation.

Except indicates the exclusion of someone or something.

Everyone except John volunteered to help.

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Aside from the one-letter spelling variance, how do averse and adverse differ?

Adverse is negative or unfavorable; it is often used with effect or reaction, as in “an adverse reaction.”

The patient suffered an adverse reaction from the medicine he was administered.

Averse is to be turned off or repulsed by something.

I’m averse to the idea of running a marathon.

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These words are often confused because of their related meanings but differing spellings.

Affect is a verb meaning “to influence.”

Effect can be both a verb and a noun. (more…)

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Alter and altar can be easily confused because of their one-letter spelling difference. Usually writers know which meaning they want to convey, but they can’t remember which spelling goes with which word.

Alter (with an “e”) is to change or make something different. Altar (with an “a”) has the religious meaning of a place of sacrifice or center of worship.

Here’s a tip for remembering the difference between the two:

Alter is an action, so it requires effort; effort is a word that starts with the letter “e”.

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Though anecdote and antidote have very different definitions, they look and sound similar enough to be confusing.

An anecdote is a short narrative, often personal and used to illustrate a point.

Stand-up comedians often use humorous anecdotes as part of their shtick.

An antidote is something that remedies or relieves.

“Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety.” – Jack Nicklaus

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See anecdote/antidote.

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Do you say anyway or anyways? What’s the difference between them? (more…)

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The overuse of awesome in speech is a common occurrence. It is not an error, per se, but an overuse to the point that the word has become meaningless. Awesome is a perfectly fine word for describing something that inspires awe: a beautiful sunset, a majestic mountain scene, the Grand Canyon. Awesome is mostly used, however, is in response to ordinary, everyday, mundane interactions. Consider this exchange I had with a store cashier:

Cashier: “Would you like your receipt in the bag?”

Me: “That will be fine.”

Cashier: “Awesome!”

There is nothing the slightest bit awesome about agreeing to have the receipt placed in the bag with my merchandise. I think my response was rather typical.

What is an alternative response to “Awesome”? In many cases, a simple “OK” or “Thank you” will suffice. Even a response of “Good,” though also common, is a more appropriate response.

Let’s reserve the word awesome for things that are truly awesome.

If everything is awesome, then nothing is awesome.

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awhile/a while

Stay for awhile… or “Stay for a while?

Is a while (written as two words) correct, or should it be awhile (written as one word)? Both forms are correct, though it depends on how each is used in a sentence.

Object of a preposition:
A while
(two words) should be used when while is serving as the object of a preposition:
Stay for a while. (For is the preposition.)

(one word) should be the choice when being used as an adverb in a sentence:
Stay awhile.

Though there is a difference between the two forms, it’s common to see them used interchangeably.

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Do you feel bad or badly?

Should you want something bad or badly?

Whether to use bad or badly can be determined by identifying the type of verb in the sentence and understanding how bad and badly differ as parts of speech.


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