April 19, 2024


Bring Out Techno

Word Confusion: Majorly Misused Words

Many times, people misuse words by choosing a word that looks or sounds similar to the word they mean to use. Often people mishear words or only hear rather than read words, and then they use those words in the wrong context. But even accomplished writers will make mistakes where they use the wrong word, intending to use a different word, but when their brain searches for the word intended, it comes up with one so close that the author puts it down on the page, and then later, when proofreading, the author’s eye may miss the incorrect word because the brain mentally substitutes the correct word in its place, tricking the eye.

Following are seven sets of sentences with words that are often misused or accidentally used but not corrected when proofreading because of their similarities. For each example below, see if you can determine which sentence is correct.

Example 1

  1. I was awarded with high cholesterol as a result of my eating habits.
  2. I was rewarded with high cholesterol as a result of my eating habits.

The correct answer is 2. An award is something you are given as the result of an accomplishment, such as an Oscar or an achievement award. A reward is perhaps best known as something you are given for turning in a criminal wanted “dead or alive” so the meaning is close, but if you think of it as a result of your actions, then you earn a “reward.” Generally, an “award” is something physical like a trophy, or at least tangible while a “reward” may be the result of an action you took like eating junk food, which resulted in high cholesterol.

Example 2

  1. He is today contributed with curing polio.
  2. He is today attributed with curing polio.

The correct answer is 2. To contribute is to give something. To be “attributed” with something is to be acknowledged as being connected with it. Another example would be: “I contributed the book to the library” in the sense of giving or donating the book. Whereas, “The book’s authorship is attributed to the Greek poet Homer” means credit/acknowledgment for writing the book goes to Homer.

Example 3

  1. Once the shock has resided.
  2. Once the shock has subsided.

The correct answer is 2. Subside means to diminish or go down. Reside is to live in a place or be situated somewhere. Here’s a sentence that would use both words: “The floods subsided around the town where they resided. In this case, the people live in a town (reside) where flood water has risen but is now going back down (subsided).”

Example 4

  1. He passed me on the highway.
  2. He past me on the highway.
  3. It is past time for the movie to start.
  4. It is passed time for the movie to start.

The correct sentences are 1 and 3. “Past” refers to time while to “pass” is to go beyond something. Confusion comes in because “past” is also the past tense of “passed.” If you’re not sure which to use, remember that “passed” is always a verb. “Past” is the past tense of the verb, or it is a noun in the sense that it is the “past,” the opposite of the future. In sentence 4 above, because the verb is “is,” “past” is describing the time as an adjective; therefore, “passed” as a verb cannot be used to describe anything because it’s not an adjective. If still not sure which word to use, try to substitute “beyond” or “previous.” If either of those words would work in its place, then “past” would be correct in that sentence, but maybe you’d be better off just using “beyond” or “previous” in its place. For example, “The past winner of the contest was Joe” would allow “previous” to be substituted, or “I went past him” would allow “beyond” to replace it, but you couldn’t say “He beyond me on the highway.”

Example 5

  1. Everyone was invited except Mary.
  2. Everyone was invited accept Mary.

The correct sentence is 1. “Except” means “to make an exception for” and could simply be replaced with “but.” By comparison, “accept” is a verb and really means the opposite of “except.” “Except” means to exclude, while if you “accept” something, you would include it. As a verb, you could use “accept” to say, “I accepted the job offer” but there is no such word as “excepted” that you could use in this situation.

Example 6

  1. I do not believe that prophecy is true.
  2. I do not believe that prophesy is true.

The correct sentence is 1. I rarely see “prophesy” used at all, and as a result, I see “prophecy” misused frequently. “Prophecy” is a noun. It is the prediction someone has made about the future. “Prophesy” is a verb and is the act of making a prophecy, a prediction. Here are a couple of sentences using both words; note that because “prophesy” is a verb, it has more than one form: “The prophet prophesied a prophecy. He will prophesy another prophecy tomorrow, or so he prophesied that he would.”

Example 7

  1. As the police detective battered the criminal with questions, the criminal felt flustrated.
  2. As the police detective battered the criminal with questions, the criminal felt frustrated.
  3. As the police detective battered the criminal with questions, the criminal felt flustered.

Here sentence 3 is correct, and please note, there’s no such word as “flustrated” but I have seen it in print several times. People either misunderstand, mishear, or confuse “flustered” and “frustrated” and have combined it into a new word. It is kind of a nifty new word since a person could feel both “flustered” and “frustrated” but those are two separate feelings. In the example above, the criminal should feel “flustered,” meaning he is nervous and having difficulty answering the questions because of his nervousness. It is possible he could feel frustrated if the detective did not listen or believe him, or he could be frustrated just to have been brought in for interrogation, but in any case, flustered is probably the best word choice here.

A basic rule of thumb to remember is that whenever two words sound close to one another, it’s always best to ask someone else to proofread your work for you because you are too close to your material and your brain may play tricks on you. In some cases, you might also discover you have been misusing a word for a long time, so you’ll want to look up the words in the dictionary to make sure you are certain of their meanings and definitions. It’s never too late to learn more about the English language, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in asking another writer you can trust to proofread your work and give you suggestions.