Tuesday Tip #28: Avoid Misused Words


It seems simple enough, but misused words are some of the most frequent errors we come across when editing. Avoid the mix-ups by keeping these examples in mind when you next write:

1) Adverse vs. Averse

Adverse is something which is threatening or detrimental. Averse is disinclined.

Ex. The bee sting had adverse effects.

Ex. She was averse to cleaning the bathroom.

2) Appraise vs. Apprise

Appraise deals with valuation while apprise means to inform.

Ex. They appraised the ring.

Ex. She apprised her partner.

3) Disinterested vs. Uninterested

Despite common assumptions, disinterested means unbiased not uninterested.

Ex. We need a disinterested party to settle this dispute.

4) Fortuitous vs. Fortunate

Fortuitous means coincidental or unplanned, not fortunate.

Correct: It was fortuitous I ran into you today.

Incorrect: I was fortuitous in life.

5) Ironic vs. Coincidence

Irony is not coincidence, but incongruity.

Correct: It's ironic I forgot my note on not forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning.

Incorrect: It's ironic I ran into you twice this week!

6) Literally vs. Figuratively

Literally is for expressions of actual fact.

Correct: I literally chugged the whole coffee.

Incorrect: I could literally die during their presentations.

7) Nonplussed vs. Unimpressed

Nonplussed means bewildered, not unimpressed.

Ex. They were nonplussed by traffic.

Ex. They were unimpressed by the food.

8) Affect vs. Effect

Affect is influence. Effect is what has been changed.

Ex. The music affected them.

Ex. The law effected public school policy.

9) Lie vs. Lay

This comes down to nouns versus direct objects:

Ex. He lies down.

Ex. She lays down the book.

10) Accept vs. Except

Accept is agreement or consent, not an exception.

Ex. She accepted the invitation.

Ex. They bought every fruit except cherries.

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