Words Can Be Confusing

Whether it’s because the English language incorporates so many words from other language origins or because we use words erroneously when we speak, there are many commonly confused words in English that you’ll want to be aware of in your writing.

Here are some examples.

  • Bring and Take–Use  bring when something moves toward the person. Use take when something is being moved away from the person.

Bring example: Bring me the remote control.

Take example: I don’t know what to take to the meeting (not bring to the meeting).

  • Can and May–Use can when you’re writing about something having ability. Use may when you’re writing about something being permitted.

Can example: With my new job, I can pay my bills on time.

May example: I’ll ask if I may go to the party.

  • Continually and Continuously–Use continually if your intention is to write about something having occasional interruption. Use continuously if your intention is to show no interruption.

Continually example: We hear loud music from that house continually.

Continuously: She listened to her favorite song continuously for two hours.

  • Data and Datum–Data is the plural of datum. Thus, if you are writing about one fact or statistic, datum is correct. If you are writing about more than one fact or statistic, use data.

Datum example: The datum suggests e-books currently sell better than print books.

Data example: The data for the past three months show e-books are outselling print books by a substantial number.

  • Disinterested and Uninterested–Use disinterested when you’re writing about something not influenced by self-interest. Use uninterested when you’re writing about someone simply not interested in something.

Disinterested example: I am a disinterested  party.

Uninterested example: I am uninterested in the topic.

  • Each other and One another–Use each other when you’re writing about two people.  Use one another when you’re writing about three or more people.

Each other example: The couple looked at each other with desire.

One another: The dinner guests greeted one another politely.

I’ve offered just a few examples of words I see writers commonly confuse. Books are in print a long time and your name is on your book as the author. Don’t undermine your credibility with sloppy writing. And don’t rely on your editor to save you. Frankly, many editors hang out their shingle but really aren’t very good. Some are fantastic and worth everything you pay them.  When you find a good book editor who understands your voice and understands grammar and punctuation and the Chicago Manual of Style (the book publishing industry standard), don’t let him/her go!

Happy writing!


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