Certain words are often incorrectly used because of confusion resulting from similarity with other words in spelling or in meaning. The following deserve careful attention:
A, am. Although a is regularly used before words beginning with a consonant and an before words beginning with a vowel, when certain words written with an initial vowel are pronounced as though beginning with a consonant, a, not an, is used. Also, an, is used before words beginning with a silent consonant.
Correct: a one-man business, a union card, a university
Correct: an honor, a historical novel
Above. Avoid the trite use of above as in the phrase, " in the above paragraphs." Better to write "the preceding paragraph," "the foregoing paragraph," or " the paragraph written above."
Accept, except. To accept means to take willingly that which is offered, to approve or to assent to.
Correct: He accepted the offer. He accepted the invitation.
Correct: The tourist paid on all importations, personal belongings excepted.
Accidently. There is no such word; accidentally is correct.
Accordance, according. "In accordance with ( Not to ) your wishes. According to ( Not with ) your last letter.
Ad. A colloquialism for the word advertisement. Ad. and adv. are correct abbreviations.
Affect, effect. Affect means to exert an influence upon; it is used as a verb but not as a noun.
Correct: The loss of the account did not affect seriously our over-all volume.
Effect may be used as a noun or as a verb. As a noun, effect means result; as a verb, it means to cause.
Correct: We could not effect a change.
Almost, most. Do not confuse the noun most with the adverb almost. "Almost ( Not most ) all the employees have left" or "Most of the employees have left."
All right. Not alright. All right should be written as two words.
Allusion, delusion, illusion, elusion. An allusion is an indirect reference; a delusion is a misconception or a false belief; an illusion is a false or deceptive appearance; an elusion is an escape or an evasion.
Correct: Our president's allusion to higher taxes was well appreciated by the stockholders.
Correct: The convex mirror reflected queer illusions.
Correct: There are those who remain under the delusion that you can raise wages without raising prices.
Already, all ready. Already means by this time or beforehand.
Correct: Your order had already been filled before your letter arrived.
All ready means wholly or completely ready.
Correct: The company was all ready to leave at a moment's notice.
Compare similarly altogether and all together.
Amount. Not to be incorrectly used in place of number. "The number
( Not amount ) of orders was large."
Any place, every place, no place, some place. These words are frequently misused for the adverbs anywhere, everywhere, nowhere, and somewhere.
Incorrect: I cannot find the file any place.
Correct: I cannot find the file anywhere.
Aren't I. American usage does not accept aren't with the first person singular. Say "aren't we" or aren't they", but "am I not."
As . . . as. Use in affirmative comparisons. So . . . as is used in negative statement or in questions implying a negative answer.
Correct: This window display is as attractive as the last one.
Correct: This window display is not so attractive as the last one.
Asset. The word asset is essentially a term used in bookkeeping and accounting, and means any item of value owned by a man or a company. It is better not to use the word asset vaguely to identify something of advantage.
Poor: The ruling of the Bureau of Customs was an asset to the importer.
Better: The ruling of the Bureau of Customs was of decided benefit
( Or advantage or value ) to the importer.
At about. Superfluous for about.
Correct: The director's meeting will conclude about ( Not at about ) four o'clock.
Auto. Colloquial for automobile. Abbreviations are not considered proper in formal writing.
1. The term colloquial is frequently misunderstood. It refers to language suitable to familiar conversations; that is, it represents informality. Informality is just as correct as formality when it is appropriate to the occasion. Therefore, to mark an expression as colloquial is not by any means to condemn it, but simply to indicate the type of situation in which it may be used. Indeed, in every situation, colloquial expressions ( or colloquialisms ) are often appropriate than formal ones.