The Right Word

If your not on my free training webinar:...”  (Sent this morning from a webinar junkie.)  What’s wrong with this sentence?  If you say, “nothing,” then keep reading. Even if you do see the error, keep reading. 

Maybe it Christmas party hangovers, or too much sugar, or visions of Sugar Plums dancing on your brain, or not enough ho, ho, ho.  I don’t know what’s happening, but within five days I’ve received over a dozen e-mails that use the wrong word in a sentence.  It may not seem like much to you or the person who misuses the language, but to those of us who want and need to have good grammar, punctuation and syntax, it matters.

Here are my top-ten stocking-stuffers for you, not only for this holiday, but also throughout 2010 and beyond:

1.Affect/effect. Affect is usually a verb meaning: change or influence.  Effect is usually a noun meaning: result or consequence.  Think: Affect – “a” for change; Effect – “e” for result. 

 Her mood affects everyone on her team.  The effects of the research made them money. 

2. Assure/insure/ensure.  They mean “to make certain or to guarantee.”  Assure is limited to people.  Insure is only for insurance.  Ensure is to guarantee.

Their boss assured them their jobs were solid.  Each year you must insure your house, car, health and life.  The management team wants to ensure that there’s a smooth transition.

3. Farther/Further.  Farther is for actual distance. Further is for characterisation of distance; moreover; in addition.

They drove farther than they thought on the first day of their cross-country journey.  After further consideration, her parents let her move into her own apartment.

4.Fewer/less.  Fewer usually means items that can be countedLess refers to mass items that cannot be counted, like water, air, chaos.

The seminar had fewer participants in 2009 than 2008.  (You can count the participants.) There was less confusion about the Health Care Bill after it passed legislation. (You can’t quantify “confusion.”)

5. Lay/lie.  These are forms of the verb lie.   Lay means “to put” or “to place and requires an object to complete the meaning.  Lie means to “recline, rest or stay.”  (If confused, substitute the word place, placed or placing for the word in question.  If one of these works, use lay.)

Please lay (place) those presents under the tree.  I lie awake at night thinking about the economy.

6. Its/it’s.  Its is the possessive pronoun.  It’s is a contraction for it is or it has.

My car had its engine replaced. I know it’s (it is) time to take a vacation.  It’s (it has) been snowing for four days. 

7. Than/then.  Than is a conjunction used in comparisons.  Then is an adverb meaning “at that time.”  

This winter is colder than last year’s.  When it stops snowing then I’ll go to the store.

8. Toward/towards. Both are correct; toward is the  most common. 

9.  Would have.  Use have, not of.   I would have (not “would of“) taken a different job, if I’d known the company was for sale.

 10. Your/you’re.  (This mix-up is the most common mistake I see. Refer to my opening sentence example. )    Your is the third-person possessive pronoun.  You’re is a contraction for you are.

 “If your not on my free training webinar:...”   This needs to read, “If you’re not in….”  Use the contraction.  (“If you are not….”)    

I liked your training webinar.  When you’re available, I would like to go over the report.

 These are my top-ten word worries.  I hope you will look at them, study them, and then pass them along to everyone in your department, company and/or family.  Use the right word and you’ll stand above your competition; it’s a mark of excellence. 

Happy Friday.  



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