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Glossary of Usage

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Glossary of Usage

This post will help you choose between words that are often confused. It also alerts you to avoid certain words and expressions in school or business writing.

Glossary of Usage

accept, except

The verb accept means “to receive.”
Except may be a preposition or a verb.
The preposition except means “excluding.”
The verb except means “to leave out” or “to excuse.”

EXAMPLES 
  • She would not accept his phone call. [You can replace accept with receive.] 
  • Everyone except Jake has gone to the museum. [You can replace except with excluding.] 
  • Are they excepted from duty? [You can replace excepted with excused.]

affect, effect

The verb affect means “to influence.”
Effect may be used as either a verb or a noun.
The verb effect means “to bring about [a desired result]” or “to accomplish.”
The noun effect means “the result [of an action].”


EXAMPLES 
  • Light affects a plant’s growth. [You can replace affects with influences.] 
  • Managers effected changes to the process. [You can replace effected with brought about.] 
  • Did the praise have an effect on the dog’s training? [You can replace effect with result.]

all right

All right should be written as two words.
All right means “satisfactory,” “unhurt,” “safe,” or “correct.”
All right also means “yes” when it used as a reply to a question or as an introductory remark.

NONSTANDARD 
  • Ella asked me if I was allright after I scraped my leg sliding into home plate. 
STANDARD 
  • Ella asked me if I was all right after I scraped my leg sliding into home plate. 
NONSTANDARD 
  • Allright, we’ll go camping next weekend. 
STANDARD 
  • All right, we’ll go camping next weekend.

a lot

A lot is always two words and is always informal.
A lot can be used as a noun meaning “a large number or amount” or “a great deal.”
A lot can also be used as an adverb meaning “a great deal” or “very much.”
Avoid using a lot in formal situations.

INFORMAL
  • I don’t have a lot of time this week. 
FORMAL 
  • I don’t have a great deal of time this week. 
INFORMAL 
  • Those bats like mosquitoes a lot
FORMAL 
  • Those bats like mosquitoes very much.

anyways, anywheres

Do not add an s to words such as anyway, anywhere, everywhere, nowhere, or somewhere.

NONSTANDARD 
  • Have you seen my jacket anywheres
STANDARD 
  • Have you seen my jacket anywhere?

at

Don’t use at after where.

NONSTANDARD 
  • Where are the boxes at? 
STANDARD 
  • Where are the boxes?

between, among

Use between when referring to two individuals or items at one time.
Use among when referring to a group rather than to separate individuals or items.

EXAMPLES 
  • The museum is located between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. [Between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue refers to two items.] 
  • Phyllis, Emilia, and Tamara divided the boxes among themselves. [Among themselves refers to a group of three individuals.]

done

Always use a helping verb with done, the past participle of the verb do.
Do not use done instead of did.

NONSTANDARD 
  • I already done the laundry. 
STANDARD 
  • I have already done the laundry. 
STANDARD 
  • I already did the laundry.

don’t, doesn’t

Don’t is a contraction of do not.
Use don’t with plural subjects and the pronouns I and you.
Doesn’t is a contraction of does not.
Use doesn’t with all other singular subjects.

EXAMPLES 
  • These photographs don’t need to be retouched. [Don’t agrees with the plural subject photographs.] 
  • I don’t know how to get there. Don’t you have the directions? [Don’t agrees with the pronouns I and you.] 
  • My uncle doesn’t drive a car. [Doesn’t agrees with the singular subject uncle.]

fewer, less

Fewer is used with plural words and tells “how many.”
Less is used with singular words and tells “how much.”

EXAMPLES 
  • This room has fewer chairs in it than that room. [Chairs is plural.] 
  • If we leave before rush hour, it will take us less time to get there. [Time is singular.]

kind of, sort of

Kind of and sort of are informal.
In formal situations, use rather or somewhat.

INFORMAL 
  • The article was kind of long. 
FORMAL 
  • The article was rather long.

learn, teach

The verb learn means “to gain knowledge.”
The verb teach means “to provide knowledge.”

EXAMPLES 
  • Lori learns many sewing techniques from her aunt. [Lori gains knowledge about sewing techniques from her aunt.] 
  • Her aunt teaches a sewing class. [Her aunt provides knowledge about sewing.]

of

Do not use of after verbs such as could, should, would, might, must, and ought [to].
Of is a preposition and should not be substituted for have. Also, do not use had of for had.

NONSTANDARD 
  • The overpass should of been completed on time. 
STANDARD 
  • The overpass should have been completed on time.

supposed to, used to

The past-tense forms of suppose and use always end in –d.

EXAMPLES 
  • Were you supposed to call? [The past tense of suppose is supposed.] 
  • Leonard used to play the piano. [The past-tense form of use is used.]

than, then

Than is a subordinating conjunction; it is used to make comparisons.
Then is an adverb; it answers the question when? and usually means “at that time” or “next.”

EXAMPLES 
  • This mug is bigger than that one is. [Than is used in a comparison.] 
  • Jan found her seat and then read the program. [Then means “next.”]

try and, try to

Use try to, not try and.

INFORMAL 
  • Try and shut the door more quietly next time. 
FORMAL 
  • Try to shut the door more quietly next time.

this here, that there

NONSTANDARD 
  • This here door is locked. 
STANDARD 
  • This door is locked.

who, which, that

Who is used to refer to people.
Which is used to refer to things.
That can be used to refer to either people or things.

EXAMPLES 
  • He is the man who [or that] lost his keys. [Who or that can be used to refer to people.] 
  • The table, which is made of solid wood, was expensive. [Which is used to refer to things.] 
  • Is that the bicycle that your aunt bought you? [That can be used to refer to things.]

Double Negatives

Using two or more negative words for one negative idea creates a double negative. Some common negative words include barely, but (meaning “only”), hardly, neither, never, no, nobody, none, no one, not (–n’t), nothing, nowhere, only, and scarcely.

Avoid using double negatives.

NONSTANDARD 
  • I couldn’t barely reach the top shelf. [The contraction –n’t and the word barely are both negative. When they are used together to express one negative idea, they form a double negative.] 
STANDARD 
  • I could barely reach the top shelf. [Deleting the negative contraction –n’t eliminates the double negative.] 
STANDARD 
  • I couldn’t reach the top shelf. [Deleting the negative word barely eliminates the double negative.] 
NONSTANDARD 
  • She doesn’t need no help. [The contraction –n’t and the word no are both negative. When they are used together to express one negative idea, they form a double negative.] 
STANDARD 
  • She needs no help. [Deleting the negative contraction –n’t eliminates the double negative.] 
STANDARD 
  • She doesn’t need any help. [Substituting any for the negative word no eliminates the double negative.]

Nonsexist Language

Nonsexist language applies to people in general, whether they are male or female. Often these words refer to occupations or professions. Usually you can replace words that refer to only one gender with words that apply to all people. You should use nonsexist language rather than gender-specific language when you are referring to people in general.

GENDER-SPECIFIC NONSEXIST
stewardess, steward flight attendant
fireman firefighter
policeman police officer
man-made
synthetic, manufactured
mailman
mail carrier

GENDER-SPECIFIC 
  • For additional assistance, please contact one of our salesmen. [Salesmen is a gender-specific term.] 
NONSEXIST 
  • For additional assistance, please contact one of our salesclerks. [Salesclerks is a nonsexist term.]

NOTE

NOTE
If a pronoun’s antecedent may be either masculine or feminine, use both the masculine and the feminine pronouns to refer to that antecedent

EXAMPLE 
  • No one worked on his or her project last weekend. [No one may be either masculine or feminine, so both his and her are used to refer to No one.]

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Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎

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