Reminders for the New Year

by Cherie Tucker

February 2018

I know we’ve done it before, but a review of those pesky ones couldn’t hurt. Here’s a reminder of some of those words that are being used incorrectly so often that you might be taken in and start using the wrong ones yourself.

All right: Notice there is no other way to write that: Without two words, all right is all wrong.

Affect—a verb that means to change a response: The warning sign didn’t affect his driving.

Effect—a noun that means a result: The warning sign didn’t have any effect on his driving.

or a verb that means to cause: They hoped a sign would effect a change in him.

Anxious—to look forward to with fear: He’s anxious about having to speak to this crowd.

Eager—to look forward to with excitement or pleasure: She’s eager to be on stage again.


Comprise—the parts are contained in the whole: Veggies and tofu comprise the entire menu!

(Nothing is ever comprised of.)

Composed of—the parts make up the whole: An entire menu composed of veggies and tofu?


Everyday—ordinary or commonplace: Walking to work is an everyday thing for him.

Every day—daily: He walks to work every day—three miles!


Ex—immediate past position holder—She’s the ex-president of the PTA at the high school.

Former—earlier position holder—He’s a former PTA president of the high school.


Fewer—refers to a smaller number of countable things: There are fewer cookies in the jar.

Less—is used for a smaller portion of a single thing: There is less water in this glass.


Healthy—the state of something’s health: He was finally healthy enough to start playing again.

Healthful—meaning good for your health: She mistakenly thinks diet sodas are healthful.


Imply—to suggest or hint: He implied that someone in class was cheating.

Infer—to assume or form a conclusion: How could you infer that he was talking about you?


Its—a singular possessive pronoun that refers to a singular thing: That car lost its bumper!

It’s—a contraction of IT IS and nothing else. EVER: It’s time to learn this one.


This kind—singular pronoun with singular word: I love this kind of dark chocolate.

These kinds—plural pronoun with plural word: I love these kinds of chocolates.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.

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