As a copy editor, I come across many expressions that writers use incorrectly. The list of troublesome words and expressions could fill many pages, so I have chosen a few that many writers struggle with. I have not dealt with lay and lie, which are particularly problematic. These verbs have been dealt with in an article all to themselves under the title Lie, Lady, Lie.
Advice is the noun. I give advice. Advise is the verb. I advise you to take my advice.
Affect is the verb. Effect is the noun, but it can be used as a verb as well.
How does this change affect you?
What effect does it have on you?
By working together we can effect (bring about) some changes.
This word means to make worse, not to annoy or to anger.
The proper term is all right. I see alright used frequently, especially by American writers, but that spelling is best avoided.
Amount is for a mass. Number is for countable items.
Anyways, anywheres, everywheres, nowheres, somewheres
These are non-standard forms. Drop the “s.”
Awhile, abit, alot
Two words — a while, a bit, and a lot.
Between is used with two people (This is between John and me). Among is used for three or more (We’ll divide the food among the townspeople).
Breath is the noun and breathe is the verb.
Someday, I will breathe my last breath.
Continual means again and again, while continuous means ongoing.
I could care less.
Usually the writer means the opposite of what this sentence says. Most likely, what is meant is I couldn’t care less.
Envelop means to wrap around. Envelope is the folder you put a letter in.
I will envelop you in my arms when you give me the envelope with the money in it.
Just as with amount and number, less is used for a mass (an amount) and fewer is used for something countable.
Loath is the adjective. Loathe is the verb.
I was loath to do the dishes because I loathe that job.
Not necessary after the prepositions inside, off, and outside.
Incorrect as a substitute for have, as in would have, could have, and should have.
Usually there is no need for the why.
Facts are always true, so true facts has no real meaning. Just use the word facts by itself.
In most cases, very is easily omitted and not missed.
With regards to
What the writer usually means is with regard to. This expression is often not necessary, only adding wordiness to the writing, but when written as with regards to, it sounds as if the writer is adding a greeting to someone.
To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links: