Top 10 Most Frequently Misused Terms
affect vs. effect Affect (verb) means to influence or change. Effect means to bring about (verb) or result (noun).
That movie affected me quite a bit.
The effect of that movie was powerful.
among vs. between Between introduces two items; among introduces more than two.
I am deciding between a red couch and a blue couch for the lobby.
I think the tan couch is my favorite among the choices.
amount vs. number Amount refers to the quantity of something that cannot be counted in individual units (sugar, money). Number refers to something that can be counted in individual units (packages of sugar, dollars).
The amount of help we received was unprecedented.
The number of people who helped was unprecedented.
bad vs. badly Bad is an adjective. Badly is an adverb. I feel bad is correct if you mean you feel sad, guilty, or in ill health. I feel badly is incorrect unless you mean your sense of touch is impaired.
That little boy is bad.
That little boy behaved badly.
can vs. may Can refers to ability. May refers to possibility or permission.
I can attend the meeting if necessary.
She may attend the meeting as long as she keeps quiet.
farther vs. further Farther means a longer physical distance. Further means to a greater extent.
The airport was farther away than I expected. Her explanation of the problem only confused me further.
I cannot complete the project with fewer than six team members.
Our car uses less gas than the competing model.
it’s vs. its It’s is a contraction for it is. Its is a pronoun indicating possession (meaning belonging to it), just like his, her, your, and our. Even the best writers inadvertently swap the two, so every time you use it’s or its, double check your meaning.
It’s going to take a long time to photocopy this whole packet.
The copy machine has a mind of its own.
than vs. then Than means in comparison to. Then means at that time or soon afterward.
He is a faster typist than I am.
Learn to type correctly, and then concentrate on speed.
whose vs. who’s Whose means belonging to whom. Who’s is a contraction meaning who is.
Whose desk is that?
Who’s going to sit at that desk?