• A, An:  The choice of which to use depends on the sound–not the letter that follows.
  • Accept, except: Accept means to take or to receive.  Except means to exclude.
  • Adverse, Averse: Adverse means hostile or unfavorable.  Averse means disinclined.
  • Affect, EffectAffect is to influence, change.  Effect is to cause.
  • Afterward, Afterwards: Never use afterwards.
  • Aid, Aide: Aid is a form of help, to help.  Aide is an assistant.
  • A lot, Allot: A lot means a great deal.  Allot means to assign or distribute a share of something.
  • Allude, Elude: Allude means refer to a book.  Elude means to avoid a pursuer.
  • Allusion, Delusion, Elusion, Illusion: Allusion means indirect reference.  Delusion means false belief.
  • Elusion means to escape.  Illusion means unreal vision.
  • Already, All readyAlready means previously.  All ready means all prepared.
  • Alright:  Bad spelling of all right, but is common in written dialogue.
  • Altogether, All together: Altogether means entirely.  All together means in a group.
  • Ante-, Anti-: Ante- is a prefix meaning “before.”  Anti- is a prefix meaning “against.”
  • Anybody, Any Body: Anybody means any person.  Any body means any corpse or any human form.
  • As, LikeAs can introduce a clause, like cannot.
  • Assure, Ensure, Insure: Assure means to give someone confidence.  Ensure means o make certain.  Insure
  • means to protect against loss.
  • Awhile, A whileAwhile is an adverb meaning for a  short time.  A while is a noun phrase used when a
  • preposition is expressed.


  • Beside, BesidesBeside means by the side of.  Besides means in addition.
  • Breadth, Breath, Breathe: Breadth means width.  Breath means respiration.  Breathe means to inhale and exhale.


  • Can, MayCan implies ability.  May denotes permission.
  • Cannot, Can not: Cannot is always one word.
  • Credible, CredulousCredible means believable.  Credulous means willing to believe.


  • Disinterested, UninterestedDisinterested means unbiased by personal interest.  Uninterested means lack of interest.


  • Elicit, IllicitElicit means to draw forth.  Illicit means unlawful.
  • Everyday, Every dayEveryday pertains to every day, daily; or ordinary.


  • Farther, FurtherFarther means more distant, measurable sense.  Further means more or additional.


  • Get:  Imprecise or redundant usually for context; consider replacing.


  • Hanged, HungHanged is used in connection with executions.  Hung denotes any other kind of suspension.


  • Imply, InferImply means to give a hint or suggestion.  Infer means to derive by      reasoning.
  • Its, It’sIts is the possessive case of itIt’s is the contraction of it is.


  • Just exactly:  Redundant combination.


  • Kind of, Sort of:  Never use a or an after these expressions.


  • Lay, LieLay means to put or place.  Lie means to rest or recline.
  • Lead, LedLead used as a verb means to go before; used as a noun it is a metal.      Led is the past tense of verb lead meaning went before.
  • Lose, LooseLose means to misplace.  Loose means not fastened down.


  • Myself:  An intensive and reflexive pronoun; should never be used in a sentence without its corresponding noun or pronoun.  (I hurt myself.)


  • Nauseous, NauseatedNauseous means affected with nausea or causing nausea. You are nauseated.


  • On, Onto, On toOn can mean on top of.  Onto means upon, on and implies movement.  On to can have same meaning as onto.
  • Oral, VerbalOral means spoken.  Verbal means spoken also.
  • One another, Each otherEach other applies to two.  One another applies to three or more.


  • Passed, PastPassed is a verb for went or gone by.  Past means preceding.
  • People, PersonsPeople refers to masses.  Persons is for small groups.
  • Precede, ProceedPrecede means to come before.  Proceed means to go ahead.
  • Principal, Principle: Principal as a noun, refers to a person, except in specialized legal and financial terms. Principle a noun with abstract meanings.


  • Quite:  Can mean completely.


  • Raise, RiseRaise as a verb means to lift or bring up; as a noun it means an increase.  Rise as a verb means to go or get up; as a noun it means reaction.
  • Regardless, IrregardlessRegardless means without regard or despite.  Irregardless is a nonstandard word for regardless and should not be used.


  • Set, SitSet means to place or put something.  Sit means to assume an upright position.


  • Than, ThenThan is used after a comparison.  Then means next.
  • That, WhichThat is used to indicate a person or thing as pointed out; is not set off by commas.  Which means which one; used in restrictive and non-restrictive clause to represent a specified antecedent; is set off by
  • commas.
  • That, Who:  Both can refer to a person.  Use whichever sounds better in a given context.
  • Their, There, They’re: Their means to show possession.  There means a location.  There is a contraction of they are.
  • Titled, Entitled: Titled refers to the name of a book play, etc.  Entitled means a right or a claim.
  • Toward, Towards: Toward is correct. Do not use towards.


  • Use, UtilizeUse can have same meaning as utilize and can be used in its place. Utilize cannot replace use.


  • Via:  Often treated as synonymous for by, through, or by means of.


  • Who, WhomWho is the correct form of a subject of a sentence or clause. Whom is used for the object of a verb or preposition.
  • Who’s, WhoseWho’s is the contraction for who is and who hasWhose is the possessive form of who.


  • You’re, YourYou’re is the contraction of you areYour is the possessive form of you.

The Smarts Button

This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.