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    Common Errors in English Usage

    مصطفى منصور

    المساهمات : 136
    تاريخ التسجيل : 25/12/2009
    الموقع : فارسكور - دمياط - مصر ( مدرسة فارسكور الاعدادية للبنين )

    Common Errors in English Usage

    مُساهمة  مصطفى منصور في الأحد يناير 03, 2010 6:32 pm

    If the word following begins with a vowel sound, the word you want is “an”:
    “Have an apple, Adam.” If the word following begins with a consonant, but
    begins with a vowel sound, you still need “an”: “An X-ray will show whether
    there’s a worm in it.” It is nonstandard and often considered sloppy speech to
    utter an “uh” sound in such cases.
    When the following word defi nitely begins with a consonant sound, you
    need “a”: “A snake told me apples enhance mental abilities.”
    Note that the letter Y can be either a vowel or a consonant. Although it is
    sounded as a vowel in words like “pretty,” at the beginning of words it is usually
    sounded as a consonant, as in “a yolk.”
    Words beginning with the letter U which start with a Y consonant sound
    like “university” and “utensil” also take an “a”: “a university” and “a utensil.”
    But when an initial U has a vowel sound, the word is preceded by “an”: it’s “an
    umpire,” “an umbrella,” and “an understanding.”
    See also “historic: an historic vs. a historic.”
    “A.D.” does not mean “after death,” as many people suppose. “B.C.” stands for
    the English phrase “before Christ,” but “A.D.” stands confusingly for a Latin
    phrase: anno domini (“in the year of the Lord”—the year Jesus was born). If the
    calendar actually changed with Jesus’ death, then what would we do with the
    years during which he lived? Since Jesus was probably actually born around
    6 B.C. or so, the connection of the calendar with him can be misleading.
    Many Biblical scholars, historians, and archeologists prefer the less sectarian
    designations “before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) and “the Common Era”
    All of these abbreviations can also be spelled without their periods.
    a historic/an historic
    See “historic: an historic vs. a historic.”
    a lot/alot
    See “alot/a lot.”

    “Abject” is always negative—it means “hopeless,” not “extreme.” You can’t experience
    “abject joy” unless you’re being deliberately paradoxical.
    able to
    People are able to do things, but things are not able to be done: you should not
    say, “the budget shortfall was able to be solved by selling brownies.”
    “Th is isn’t about you.” What a great rebuke! But conservatives sniff at this sort
    of abstract use of “about,” as in “I’m all about good taste” or “successful truffl emaking
    is about temperature control”; so it’s better to avoid it in very formal
    Although it’s “absorbed” and “absorbing,” the correct spelling of the noun is
    But note that scientists distinguish between “absorption” as the process
    of swallowing up or sucking in something and “adsorption” as the process by
    which something adheres to the surface of something else without being assimilated
    into it. Even technical writers often confuse these two.
    Most people fi rst encounter “obtuse” in geometry class, where it labels an angle
    of more than 90 degrees. Imagine what sort of blunt arrowhead that kind of
    angle would make and you will understand why it also has a fi gurative meaning
    of “dull, stupid.” But people often mix the word up with “abstruse,” which
    means “diffi cult to understand.”
    When you mean to criticize
    something for being needlessly
    complex or baffl ing, the word you
    need is not “obtuse,” but “abstruse.”
    Although some academics are
    undoubtedly nuts, the usual
    English-language pronunciation of
    “academia” does not rhyme with
    “macadamia.” Th e third syllable is
    pronounced “deem.” Just say “academe”
    and add “ee-yuh.”
    However, there’s an interesting
    possibility if you go with “ack-uh-
    DAME-ee-yuh”: although some
    people will sneer at your lack of
    Even at the Women’s Barbell Academy it is
    not pronounced “ack-uh-DAME-ee-yuh.”

    sophistication, others will assume you’re using the Latin pronunciation and
    being learned.
    If you drive too fast, you exceed the speed limit. “Accede” is a much rarer word
    meaning “give in, agree.”
    accent marks
    In what follows, “accent mark” will be used in a loose sense to include all diacritical
    marks that guide pronunciation. Operating systems and programs diff er
    in how they produce accent marks, but it’s worth learning how yours works.
    Writing them in by hand afterwards looks amateurish.
    Words adopted from foreign languages sometimes carry their accent marks
    with them, as in “fi ancé,” “protégé,” and “cliché.” As words become more at
    home in English, they tend to shed the marks: “Café” is often spelled “cafe.”
    Unfortunately, “résumé” seems to be losing its marks one at a time (see also
    Many computer users have not learned their systems well enough to
    understand how to produce the desired accent and often insert an apostrophe
    (curled) or foot mark (straight) after the accented letter instead: “cafe’” or
    “cafe'.” Th is is both ugly and incorrect. Th e same error is commonly seen on
    storefront signs.
    So far we’ve used examples containing acute (right-leaning) accent marks.
    French and Italian (but not Spanish) words often contain grave (left-leaning)
    accents; in Italian it’s a caff è. It is important not to substitute one kind of accent
    for the other.
    Th e diaeresis over a letter signifi es that it is to be pronounced as a separate
    syllable: “noël” and “naïve” are sometimes spelled with a diaeresis, for instance.
    Th e umlaut, which looks identical, modifi es the sound of a vowel, as in German
    Fräulein (girl), where the accent mark changes the “frow” sound of Frau
    (woman) to “froy.” Rock groups like Blue Öyster Cult scattered umlauts about
    nonsensically to create an exotic look.
    Spanish words not completely assimilated into English—like piñata and
    niño—retain the tilde, which tells you that an N is to be pronounced with a
    Y sound after it.
    In English-language publications accent marks are often discarded, but the
    acute and grave accents are the ones most often retained.
    If you off er me Godiva chocolates I will gladly accept them—except for the
    candied violet ones. Just remember that the X in “except” excludes things—
    they tend to stand out, be diff erent. In contrast, just look at those two cozy
    Cs snuggling up together. Very accepting. And be careful; when typing
    “except” it often comes out “expect.”

    access/get access to
    “Access” is one of many nouns that’s been turned into a verb in recent years.
    Conservatives object to phrases like, “You can access your account online.”
    Substitute “use,” “reach,” or “get access to” if you want to please them.
    Th ere’s an “ack” sound at the beginning of this word, though some mispronounce
    it as if the two C’s were to be sounded the same as the two SS’s.
    You can remember this one by remembering how to spell “accidental.” Th ere
    are quite a few words with “-ally” suffi xes (like “incidentally”), which are not to
    be confused with words that have “-ly” suffi xes (like “independently”). “Incidental”
    is a word, but “independental” is not.
    according to/per
    See “per/according to.”
    In ordinary usage, “accurate” and “precise” are often used as rough synonyms,
    but scientists like to distinguish between them. Someone could say that a snake
    is over a meter long and be accurate (the snake really does exceed one meter in
    length), but that is not a precise measurement. To be precise, the measurement
    would have to be more exact: the snake is 1.23 meters long. Th e same distinction
    applies in scientifi c contexts to the related words “accuracy” and “precision.”
    acronyms and apostrophes
    One unusual modern use of the apostrophe is in plural acronyms, like
    “ICBM’s,” “NGO’s,” and “CD’s.” Since this pattern violates the rule that
    apostrophes are not used before an S indicating a plural, many people object to
    it. It is also perfectly legitimate to write “CDs,” etc. Likewise for “50s.” But the
    use of apostrophes with initialisms like “learn your ABC’s” and “mind your P’s
    and Q’s” is now so universal as to be acceptable in almost any context.
    Note that “acronym” was used originally only to label pronounceable abbreviations
    like “NATO,” but is now generally applied to all sorts of initialisms.
    Be aware that some people consider this extended defi nition of “acronym” to
    be an error.
    See also “apostrophes.”
    In some dialects, “acrosst” is a common misspelling of “across.” Also, the
    chicken may have crossed the road, but did so by walking across it.
    “Actionable” is a technical term referring to something that provides grounds
    for a legal action or lawsuit. People in the business world have begun using it as
    access/get access to

    a fancy synonym for
    “doable” or “feasible.”
    Th is is both pretentious
    and confusing.
    actual fact/actually
    “In actual fact” is an
    unnecessarily complicated
    way of saying
    ad nauseum/ad nauseam
    Seeing how often ad nauseam is misspelled makes some people want to throw
    You can adopt a child or a custom or a law; in these cases you are making the
    object of the adoption your own, accepting it. If you adapt something, however,
    you are changing it.
    “Advertisement” is abbreviated
    “ad,” not “add.”
    See “plus/add.”
    added bonus
    See “redundancies.”
    Do you fi nd beer nuts
    addicting or addictive? “Addicting” is a perfectly legitimate word, but much less
    common than “addictive,” and some people will scowl at you if you use it.
    See “without further adieu/without further ado.”
    You can minister to someone by administering fi rst aid. Note how the “ad” in
    “administer” resembles “aid” in order to remember the correct form of the latter
    phrase. “Minister” as a verb always requires “to” following it.
    Although it is very popular with administrators and others, many people scorn
    “administrate” as an unnecessary substitute for the more common verb form
    —“In actual fact, I think
    I’m very well spoken.”
    —“Well, actually . . .”
    Th e carousel, the calliope—
    they both went on ad nauseam.

    See “adapt/adopt.”
    “Adultery” is often misspelled “adultry,” as if it were something every adult
    should try. Th is spelling error is likely to get you snickered at. Th e term does
    not refer to all sorts of illicit sex: at least one of the partners involved has to be
    married for the relationship to be adulterous.
    When you hear about something in advance, earlier than other people, you get
    advance notice or information. “Advanced” means “complex,” “sophisticated”
    and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the revealing of secrets.
    Th e word “adverse” turns up most frequently in the phrase “adverse circumstances,”
    meaning diffi cult circumstances, circumstances which act as an
    adversary; but people often confuse this word with “averse,” a much rarer word,
    meaning having a strong feeling against, or aversion toward.
    “Advice” is the noun, “advise” the verb. When Miss Manners advises people,
    she gives them advice.
    “Adviser” and “advisor” are equally fi ne spellings. Th ere is no distinction between
    advocate for/advocate
    When they are acting as advocates for a cause, people often say they are “advocating
    for,” say, traffi c safety. Th is is not as widely accepted as “campaigning
    for” or “working toward.” Saying you are “advocating for the blind” leaves a lot
    of listeners wondering what it is you advocate for them. If you can substitute
    “advocate” for “advocate for,” you should do so: “I advocate for higher pay for
    teachers” becomes “I advocate higher pay for teachers.”
    People often encounter these two words fi rst in college, and may confuse one
    with the other although they have almost opposite connotations. “Aesthetic”
    (also spelled “esthetic”) has to do with beauty, whereas “ascetic” has to do with
    avoiding pleasure, including presumably the pleasure of looking at beautiful
    St. Francis had an ascetic attitude toward life, whereas Oscar Wilde had an
    esthetic attitude toward life.

    aff ect/eff ect
    Th ere are fi ve distinct words here. When “aff ect” is accented on the fi nal
    syllable (a-FECT), it is usually a verb meaning “have an infl uence on”: “Th e
    million-dollar donation from the industrialist did not aff ect my vote against
    the Clean Air Act.”
    Occasionally a pretentious person is said to aff ect an artifi cial air of sophistication.
    Speaking with a borrowed French accent or ostentatiously wearing a
    large diamond ear stud might be an aff ectation. In this sort of context, “aff ect”
    means “to make a display of or deliberately cultivate.”
    Another unusual meaning is indicated when the word is accented on the fi rst
    syllable (AFF-ect), meaning “emotion.” In this case the word is used mostly by
    psychiatrists and social scientists—people who normally know how to spell it.
    Th e real problem arises when people confuse the fi rst spelling with the
    second: “eff ect.” Th is too can be two diff erent words. Th e more common one
    is a noun: “When I left the stove on, the eff ect was that the house fi lled with
    smoke.” When you aff ect a situation, you have an eff ect on it.
    Th e less common is a verb meaning “to create”: “I’m trying to eff ect a
    change in the way we purchase widgets.” No wonder people are confused. Note
    especially that the proper expression is not “take aff ect” but “take eff ect”—become
    eff ective. Hey, nobody ever said English was logical: just memorize it and
    get on with your life.
    Th e stuff in your purse? Your personal eff ects.
    Th e stuff in movies? Sound eff ects and special eff ects.
    affl uence/effl uence
    Wealth brings affl uence; sewage is effl uence.
    Th ere have been several polite terms used in the US to refer to persons of African
    descent: “colored,” “negro,” “Black,” and “African-American.” “Colored”
    is defi nitely dated, though “people of color” is now widely used with a broader
    meaning, including anyone with non-European ancestry, sometimes even
    when their skin is not discernibly darker than that of a typical European. A
    few contemporary writers like to defy convention by referring to themselves as
    “negro.” “Black,” formerly a proudly assertive label claimed by young radicals
    in the 1960s, is now seen by some people as a racist insult. Some people insist
    on capitalizing “Black,” but others prefer “black.” Th e safest and most common
    neutral term is “African-American,” but Americans sometimes misuse it to label
    people of African descent living in other countries or even actual Africans. To
    qualify as an “African-American” you have to be an American.
    Like “towards,” “forwards,” and “homewards,” “afterwards” ends with -wards.
    “Afterwords” are sometimes the explanatory essays at the ends of books or
    speeches uttered at the end of plays or other works. Th ey are made up of words.
    aggravate vs. irritate
    Some people claim that “aggravate” can only mean “make worse” and should
    not be used to mean “irritate”; but the latter has been a valid use of the word
    for four centuries, and “aggravation” means almost exclusively “irritation.”
    Both agnostics and atheists are regularly criticized as illogical by people who
    don’t understand the meaning of these terms. An agnostic is a person who
    believes that the existence of a god or gods cannot be proven or known. Agnosticism
    is a statement about the limits of human knowledge. It is an error to suppose
    that agnostics perpetually hesitate between faith and doubt: they are confi -
    dent they cannot know the ultimate truth. Similarly, atheists believe there are no
    gods. Atheists need not be able to disprove the existence of gods to be consistent
    just as believers do not need to be able to prove that gods do exist in order to be
    regarded as religious. Both attitudes have to do with beliefs, not knowledge.
    “Agnostic” is often used metaphorically of any refusal to make a judgment,
    usually on the basis of a lack of evidence; people can be agnostic about acupuncture,
    for instance, if they believe there is not enough evidence one way or
    another to decide its eff ectiveness.
    When you agree with someone you are in agreement.
    In standard English you just “get hold” of something or somebody.
    In American English, an aide is a personal assistant (nurse’s aide, presidential
    aide) but an inanimate object or process is always an aid (hearing aid, fi rst aid).
    ain’t/am not/isn’t/aren’t
    “Ain’t” has a long and vital history as a substitute for “isn’t,” “aren’t,” and so on.
    It was originally formed from a contraction of “am not” and is still commonly
    used in that sense. Even though it has been universally condemned as the classic
    “mistake” in English, everyone uses it occasionally as part of a joking phrase
    or to convey a down-to-earth quality. But if you always use it instead of the
    more “proper” contractions you’re sure to be branded as uneducated.
    An aisle is a narrow passageway, especially in a church or store; an isle is an
    island. Propose to the person you’re stranded on a desert isle with and maybe
    you’ll march down the aisle together after you’re rescued.
    Put this word where it belongs in the sentence. In negative statements, don’t
    write, “All the pictures didn’t show her dimples” when you mean, “Th e pictures
    didn’t all show her dimples.”
    aggravate vs. irritate
    all and all/all in all
    “Th e dog got into the fried chicken, we forgot the sunscreen, and the kids
    started whining at the end, but all in all the picnic was a success.” “All in all”
    is a traditional phrase which can mean “all things considered,” “after all,” or
    “nevertheless.” People unfamiliar with the traditional wording often change it
    to “all and all,” but this is nonstandard.
    all be it/albeit
    “Albeit” is a single word meaning “although”: “Rani’s recipe called for a tablespoon
    of saff ron, which made it very tasty, albeit rather expensive.” It should
    not be broken up into three separate words as “all be it,” just as “although” is
    not broken up into “all though.”
    all for not/all for naught
    “Naught” means “nothing,” and the phrase “all for naught” means “all for
    nothing.” Th is is often misspelled “all for not” and occasionally “all for knot.”
    all goes well/augurs well
    Some folks who don’t understand the word “augur” (to foretell based on
    omens) try to make sense of the common phrase “augurs well” by mangling it
    into “all goes well.” “Augurs well” is synonymous with “bodes well.”
    all of the sudden/all of a sudden
    An unexpected event happens not “all of the sudden” but “all of a sudden.”
    all ready/already
    “All ready” is a phrase meaning “completely prepared,” as in, “As soon as I put
    my coat on, I’ll be all ready.” “Already,” however, is an adverb used to describe
    something that has happened before a certain time, as in, “What do you mean
    you’d rather stay home? I’ve already got my coat on.”
    all right/alright
    See “alright/all right.”
    all the farther/as far as
    In some American dialects it is not uncommon to hear sentences such as
    “Abilene is all the farther the rustlers got before the posse caught up with
    them.” Th e strangely constructed expression “all the farther” should be replaced
    with the much more straightforward “as far as.”
    all together/altogether
    See “altogether/all together.”
    alleged, allegedly
    Seeking to avoid prejudging the facts in a crime and protect the rights of the
    accused, reporters sometimes over-use “alleged” and “allegedly.” If it is clear
    that someone has been robbed at gunpoint, it’s not necessary to describe it as
    alleged, allegedly

    an alleged robbery nor the victim as an alleged victim. Th is practice insultingly
    casts doubt on the honesty of the victim and protects no one. An accused perpetrator
    is one whose guilt is not yet established, so it is redundant to speak of
    an “alleged accused.” If the perpetrator has not yet been identifi ed, it’s pointless
    to speak of the search for an “alleged perpetrator.”
    See “parallel/symbol.”
    Pairs of words with the same initial sound alliterate, like “wild and wooly.”
    Th ose who can’t read are illiterate.
    “Alls I know is . . .” may result from anticipating the S in “is,” but the standard
    expression is “All I know is. . . .”
    You can allude (refer) to your daughter’s membership in the honor society
    when boasting about her, but a criminal tries to elude (escape) captivity. Th ere
    is no such word as “illude.”
    To allude to something is to refer to it indirectly, by suggestion. If you are
    being direct and unambiguous, you are referring to the subject rather than
    alluding to it.
    An allusion is a reference, something you allude to: “Her allusion to fl owers
    reminded me that Valentine’s Day was coming.” In that English paper, don’t
    write “literary illusions” when you mean “allusions.” A mirage, hallucination,
    or magic trick is an illusion. (Doesn’t being fooled just make you ill?)
    When the defense lawyer alludes to his client’s poor mother, he is being allusive.
    When the mole keeps eluding the traps you’ve set in the garden, it’s being
    elusive. We also speak of matters that are diffi cult to understand, identify, or
    remember as elusive. Illusions can be illusive, but we more often refer to them
    as illusory.
    Like “only,” “almost” must come immediately before the word or phrase it
    modifi es: “She almost gave a million dollars to the museum” means something
    quite diff erent from, “She gave almost a million dollars to the museum.” Right?
    So you shouldn’t write, “Th ere was almost a riotous reaction when the will was
    read” when what you mean is, “Th ere was an almost riotous reaction.”

    almost always/most always
    See “most always/almost always.”
    along the same vein/in the same vein, along the same line
    Th e expressions “in the same vein” and “along the same line” mean the same
    thing (“on the same subject”), but those who cross-pollinate them to create the
    hybrid “along the same vein” sound a little odd to those who are used to the
    standard expressions.
    alot/a lot
    Perhaps this common spelling error began because there does exist in English
    a word spelled “allot” which is a verb
    meaning to apportion or grant. Th e correct
    form, with “a” and “lot” separated
    by a space is perhaps not often encountered
    in print because formal writers
    usually use other expressions such as “a
    great deal,” “often,” etc.
    You shouldn’t write “alittle” either.
    It’s “a little.”
    If you think Grandma allowed the kids
    to eat too much ice cream, you’d better not say so aloud, or her feelings will be
    hurt. “Aloud” means “out loud” and refers to sounds (most often speech) that
    can be heard by others. But this word is often misused when people mean “allowed,”
    meaning “permitted.”
    already/all ready
    See “all ready/already.”
    alright/all right
    Th e correct form of this phrase has become so rare in the popular press that
    many readers have probably never noticed that it is actually two words. But if
    you want to avoid irritating traditionalists you’d better tell them that you feel
    “all right” rather than “alright.”
    An altar is that platform at the front of a church or in a temple; to alter something
    is to change it.
    When you have a concealed reason for doing something, it’s an ulterior motive.
    Although UK authorities disapprove, in US usage, “alternate” is frequently
    an adjective, substituted for the older “alternative”: “an alternate route.”
    How much space should you allot for
    Farmer Howard’s shipment of hay? A lot!

    “Alternate” can also be a noun; a substitute delegate is, for instance, called an
    “alternate.” But when you’re speaking of “every other” as in “our club meets on
    alternate Tuesdays,” you can’t substitute “alternative.”
    altogether/all together
    “Altogether” is an adverb meaning “completely,” “entirely.” For example:
    “When he fi rst saw the examination questions, he was altogether baffl ed.” “All
    together,” in contrast, is a phrase meaning “in a group.” For example: “Th e
    wedding guests were gathered all together in the garden.” Undressed people are
    said in informal speech to be “in the altogether” (perhaps a shortening of the
    phrase “altogether naked”).
    We used to have “alumnus” (male singular), “alumni” (male plural), “alumna”
    (female singular), and “alumnae” (female plural); but the latter two are now
    popular only among older female graduates, with the fi rst two terms becoming
    unisex. However, it is still important to distinguish between one alumnus and
    a stadium full of alumni. Never say, “I am an alumni,” if you don’t want to cast
    discredit on your school. Many avoid the whole problem by resorting to the
    informal abbreviation “alum.”
    Alzheimer’s disease/old-timer’s disease
    See “old-timer’s disease/Alzheimer’s disease.”
    “AM” stands for the Latin phrase Ante Meridiem—which means “before
    noon”—and “PM” stands for Post Meridiem: “after noon.” Although digital
    clocks routinely label noon “12:00 PM” you should avoid this expression not
    only because it is incorrect, but because many people will imagine you are talking
    about midnight instead. Th e same goes for “12:00 AM.” Just say or write
    “noon” or “midnight” when you mean those precise times.
    It is now rare to see periods placed after these abbreviations: “A.M.,” but
    in formal writing it is still preferable to capitalize them, though the lower-case
    “am” and “pm” are now so popular they are not likely to get you into trouble.
    Occasionally computer programs encourage you to write “AM” and “PM”
    without a space before them, but others will misread your data if you omit the
    space. Th e nonstandard habit of omitting the space is spreading rapidly, and
    should be avoided in formal writing.
    am not/isn’t/aren’t/ain’t
    See “ain’t/am not/isn’t/aren’t.”
    Most of the words we’ve borrowed from the French that have retained their
    “-eur” endings are pretty sophisticated, like “restaurateur” (notice, no N) and
    “auteur” (in fi lm criticism), but “amateur” attracts amateurish spelling.
    altogether/all together

    Even though the prefi x “ambi-” means “both,” “ambiguous” has come to mean
    “unclear, undefi ned,” while “ambivalent” means “torn between two opposing
    feelings or views.” If your attitude cannot be defi ned into two polarized alternatives,
    then you’re ambiguous, not ambivalent.
    ambivalent/indiff erent
    If you feel pulled in two directions about some issue, you’re ambivalent about it;
    but if you have no particular feelings about it, you’re indiff erent.
    Some Canadians and more Latin Americans are understandably irritated when
    US citizens refer to themselves simply as “Americans.” Canadians (and only
    Canadians) use the term “North American” to include themselves in a twomember
    group with their neighbor to the south, though geographers usually
    include Mexico in North America. When addressing an international audience
    composed largely of people from the Americas, it is wise to consider their
    However, it is pointless to try to ban this usage in all contexts. Outside of
    the Americas, “American” is universally understood to refer to things relating to
    the US. Th ere is no good substitute. Brazilians, Argentineans, and Canadians
    all have unique terms to refer to themselves. None of them refer routinely to
    themselves as “Americans” outside of contexts like the “Organization of American
    States.” Frank Lloyd Wright promoted “Usonian,” but it never caught on.
    For better or worse, “American” is standard English for “citizen or resident of
    the United States of America.”
    See “within/among.”
    Although “amongst” has not aged nearly as badly as “whilst,” it is still less common
    in standard speech than “among.”
    “Amoral” is a rather technical word meaning “unrelated to morality.” When
    you mean to denounce someone’s behavior, call it “immoral.”
    Th is is a vast subject. I will try to limit the number of words I expend on it so
    as not to use up too great an amount of space. Th e confusion between the two
    categories of words relating to amount and number is so pervasive that those of
    us who still distinguish between them constitute an endangered species; but if
    you want to avoid our ire, learn the diff erence. Amount words relate to quantities
    of things that are measured in bulk; number to things that can be counted.

    In the second sentence above, it would have been improper to write “the
    amount of words” because words are discrete entities that can be counted, or
    Here is a handy chart to distinguish the two categories of words:
    amount number
    quantity number
    little few
    less fewer
    much many
    You can eat fewer cookies, but you drink less milk. If you ate too many
    cookies, people would probably think you’ve had too much dessert. If the thing
    being measured is being considered in countable units, then use number words.
    Even a substance that is considered in bulk can also be measured by number
    of units. For instance, you shouldn’t drink too much wine, but you should also
    avoid drinking too many glasses of wine. Note that here you are counting glasses.
    Th ey can be numbered.
    Th e most common mistake of this kind is to refer to an “amount” of people
    instead of a “number” of people.
    Just to confuse things, “more” can be used either way: you can eat more
    cookies and drink more milk.
    Exceptions to the less/fewer pattern are references to units of time and money,
    which are usually treated as amounts: less than an hour, less than fi ve dollars.
    Only when you are referring to specifi c coins or bills would you use fewer:
    “I have fewer than fi ve state quarters to go to make my collection complete.”
    Th e classy way to pronounce the fi rst syllable of this word is “amf-,” but if you
    choose the more popular “amp-” remember that you still have to include the
    H after the P when spelling it. UK-standard writers spell it “amphitheatre,” of
    See “bemuse/amuse.”
    an historic/a historic
    See “historic: an historic vs. a historic.”
    See “‘lite’ spelling.”
    See “parallel/symbol.”
    When Albus Dumbledore said that Lord Voldemort was “the last remaining
    ancestor of Salazar Slytherin,” more than one person noted that he had made a

    serious verbal bumble; and in later printings of Harry Potter and the Chamber
    of Secrets author J. K. Rowling corrected that to “last remaining descendant.”
    People surprisingly often confuse these two terms with each other. Your greatgrandmother
    is your ancestor; you are her descendant.
    anchors away/anchors aweigh
    Anchors are “weighed” by being gathered up on chains. Th e correct expression
    is “anchors aweigh.”
    Th e legal phrase “and/or,” indicating that you can either choose between two
    alternatives or choose both of them, has proved irresistible in other contexts
    and is now widely acceptable though it irritates some readers as jargon. However,
    you can logically use it only when you are discussing choices which may
    or may not both be done: “Bring chips and/or beer.” It’s very much overused
    where simple “or” would do, and it would be wrong to say, “you can get to the
    campus for this morning’s meeting on a bike and/or in a car.” Choosing one
    eliminates the possibility of the other, so this isn’t an and/or situation.
    and also/and, also
    “And also” is redundant; say just “and” or “also.”
    and plus
    See “redundancies.”
    A humorist relates “anecdotes.” Th e doctor prescribes “antidotes” for children
    who have swallowed poison. Laughter may be the best medicine, but that’s no
    reason to confuse these two with each other.
    People who want to write about winged beings
    from Heaven often miscall them “angles.” A
    triangle has three angles. Th e Heavenly Host
    is made of angels. Just remember the adjectival
    form: “angelic.” If you pronounce it aloud you’ll
    be reminded that the E comes before the L.
    See “decimate/annihilate, slaughter, etc.”
    another words/in other words
    When you reword a statement, you can preface
    it by saying “in other words.” Th e phrase is not “another words.”
    Th is word has to do with climaxes, not climate, so the word is “anticlimactic.”
    Th e angel came in
    at an odd angle.

    See “anecdote/antidote.”
    In literature, theater, and fi lm an antihero is a central character who is not very
    admirable: weak, lazy, incompetent, or mean-spirited. However, antiheroes are
    rarely actually evil, and you should not use this word as a synonym for “villain”
    if you want to get a good grade on your English lit paper.
    See “asocial/antisocial.”
    Most people use “anxious” interchangeably with “eager,” but its original meaning
    had to do with worrying, being full of anxiety. Perfectly correct phrases like
    “anxious to please” obscure the nervous tension implicit in this word and lead
    people to say less correct things like, “I’m anxious for Christmas morning to
    come so I can open my presents.” Traditionalists frown on anxiety-free anxiousness.
    Say instead you are eager for or looking forward to a happy event.
    Instead of saying, “He was the worst of any of the dancers,” say, “He was the
    worst of the dancers.”
    any where/anywhere
    “Anywhere,” like “somewhere” and “nowhere,” is always one word.
    anymore/any more
    In the fi rst place, the traditional (though now uncommon) spelling is as two
    words: “any more” as in “We do not sell bananas any more.” In the second
    place, it should not be used at the beginning of a sentence as a synonym for
    “nowadays.” In certain dialects of English it is common to utter phrases like,
    “Anymore you have to grow your own if you want really ripe tomatoes,” but
    this is guaranteed to jolt listeners who aren’t used to it. Even if they can’t
    quite fi gure out what’s wrong, they’ll feel that your speech is vaguely clunky
    and awkward. “Any more” always needs to be used as part of an expression of
    negation except in questions like, “Do you have any more bananas?” Now you
    won’t make that mistake any more, will you?
    anytime/any time
    Th ough it is often compressed into a single word by analogy with “anywhere”
    and similar words, “any time” is traditionally a two-word phrase.
    “Anyways” at the beginning of a sentence usually indicates that the speaker has
    resumed a narrative thread: “Anyways, I told Matilda that guy was a lazy bum

    before she ever married him.” It also occurs at the end of phrases and sentences,
    meaning “in any case”: “He wasn’t all that good-looking anyways.” A slightly
    less rustic quality can be imparted to these sentences by substituting the more
    formal “anyway.” Neither expression is a good idea in formal written English.
    Th e two-word phrase “any way” has many legitimate uses, however: “Is there
    any way to prevent the impending disaster?”
    apart/a part
    Paradoxically, the one-word form implies separation while the two-word form
    implies union. Feuding roommates decide to live apart. Th eir time together
    may be a part of their lives they will remember with some bitterness.
    apiece/a piece
    When you mean “each” the expression is “apiece”: these pizzas are really
    cheap—only ten dollars apiece.” But when “piece” actually refers to a piece of
    something, the required two-word expression is “a piece”: “Th is pizza is really
    expensive—they sell it by the slice for ten dollars a piece.”
    Despite misspellings in popular music, the expression is not “down the road
    apiece”; it’s “down the road a piece.”
    First let’s all join in a hearty curse of the grammarians who inserted the wretched
    apostrophe into possessives in the fi rst place. It was all a mistake. Our ancestors
    used to write “Johns hat” meaning “the hat of John” without the slightest
    ambiguity. However, some time in the Renaissance certain scholars decided
    that the simple S of possession must have been formed out of a contraction of
    the more “proper” “John his hat.” Since in English we mark contractions with
    an apostrophe, they did so, and we were stuck with the stupid “John’s hat.”
    Th eir error can be a handy reminder though: if you’re not sure whether a noun
    ending in S should be followed by an apostrophe, ask yourself whether you
    could plausibly substitute “his” or “her” for the S.
    Th e exception to this pattern involves personal pronouns indicating possession
    like “his,” “hers,” and “its.” For more on this point, see “its/it’s.”
    Get this straight once and for all: when the S is added to a word simply to
    make it a plural, no apostrophe is used (except in expressions where letters or
    numerals are treated like words, like “mind your P’s and Q’s” and “learn your
    Apostrophes are also used to indicate omitted letters in real contractions:
    “do not” becomes “don’t.”
    Why can’t we all agree to do away with the wretched apostrophe? Its two
    uses—contraction and possession—have people so thoroughly confused that
    they are always putting in apostrophes where they don’t belong, in simple
    plurals (“cucumber’s for sale”) and family names when they are referred to collectively
    (“the Smith’s”).

    Th e practice of putting improper apostrophes in family names on signs in
    front yards is an endless source of confusion. “Th e Brown’s” is just plain wrong.
    (If you wanted to suggest “the residence of the Browns” you would have to
    write “Browns’,” with the apostrophe after the S, which is there to indicate
    a plural number, not as an indication of possession.) If you simply want to
    indicate that a family named Brown lives here, the sign out front should read
    simply “Th e Browns.” When a name ends in an S you need to add an ES to
    make it plural: “the Adamses.”
    No apostrophes for simple plural names or names ending in S, OK? I get
    irritated when people address me as “Mr. Brian’s.” What about when plural
    names are used to indicate possession? “Th e Browns’ cat” is standard (the
    second S is “understood”), though some prefer “the Browns’s cat.” Th e pattern
    is the same with names ending in S: “the Adamses’ cat” or—theoretically—“the
    Adamses’s cat,” though that would be mighty awkward.
    Apostrophes are also misplaced in common plural nouns on signs: “Restrooms
    are for customer’s use only.” Who is this privileged customer to deserve a
    private bathroom? Th e sign should read “for customers’ use.”
    For ordinary nouns, the pattern for adding an apostrophe to express possession
    is straightforward. For singular nouns, add an apostrophe plus an S: “the
    duck’s bill.” If the singular noun happens to end in one S or even two, you still
    just add an apostrophe and an S: “the boss’s desk.”
    For plural nouns which end in S, however, add only the apostrophe: “the
    ducks’ bills.” But if a plural noun does not end in S, then you follow the same
    pattern as for singular nouns by adding an apostrophe and an S: “the children’s
    It is not uncommon to see the S wrongly apostrophized even in verbs, as in
    the mistaken “He complain’s a lot.”
    See also “acronyms and apostrophes.”
    Th ose of us named Paul are appalled at the misspelling of this word. No U, two
    L’s please. And it’s certainly not “uphauled”!
    When you estimate the value of something, you appraise it. When you inform
    people of a situation, you apprise them of it.
    “Apropos,” (anglicized from the French phrase “à propos”) means relevant,
    connected with what has gone before; it should not be used as an all-purpose
    substitute for “appropriate.” It would be inappropriate, for example, to say
    “Your tuxedo was perfectly apropos for the opera gala.” Even though it’s not
    pronounced, be careful not to omit the fi nal S in spelling “apropos.”
    aren’t/ain’t/am not/isn’t
    See “ain’t/am not/isn’t/aren’t.”

    If there were such a word as “arthuritis”
    it might mean the overwhelming desire
    to pull swords out of stones; but that
    ache in your joints is caused by “arthritis.”
    Although some brand names have incorporated
    this popular error, remember
    that the Arctic Circle is an arc. By the
    way, Ralph Vaughan Williams called his
    suite drawn from the score of the fi lm
    Scott of the Antarctic the Sinfonia Antartica,
    but that’s Italian, not English.
    Th e correct spelling is “article.”
    For the past half-century foodies have referred to foods and drinks made
    in small batches by hand using traditional methods as artisanal—made by
    artisans: workers in handicrafts. Th e term has also been extended to a wide
    variety of other handmade products. Dictionaries agree that the word should
    be pronounced “ARR-tizz-uh-nul” with the accent on the fi rst syllable and the
    second syllable rhyming with “fi zz.” Just say “artisan” and add “-ul.”
    Diners and restaurant workers alike commonly confuse the pronunciation
    of its fi rst three syllables with that of “artesian”—“arr-TEE-zhun”—which is
    an adjective to describe water which spurts out of the earth under natural pressure.
    In this word the accent falls on the second syllable, pronounced like “tea.”
    A spring such as this is called an “artesian spring” or “artesian well.”
    If you hand-bottle water from a natural spring in your backyard I suppose
    you could call the result artisanal artesian water.
    as best as/as best
    You can try to be as good as you can be, but it’s not standard to say that you
    do something “as best as you can.” You need to eliminate the second “as” when
    “good” changes to “best.” You can try to do something as best you can. You can
    also do the best that you can (or even better, the best you can).
    Unlike asbestos removal, “as best as” removal is easy, and you don’t have to
    wear a hazmat suit.
    as far as/all the farther
    See “all the farther/as far as.”
    “No, I do not want to watch
    that Dudley Moore movie again
    . . . you see, I have Arthur-itis.”
    as far as/all the farther

    as far as/as far as . . . is concerned
    Originally people used to say things like “As far as music is concerned, I
    especially love Baroque opera.” Recently they have begun to drop the “is concerned”
    part of the phrase. Perhaps this shift was infl uenced by confusion with
    a similar phrase, “as for.” “As for money, I don’t have any,” is fi ne; “As far as
    money, I don’t have any,” is clumsy.
    as follow/as follows
    “My birthday requests are as follows.” Th is standard phrase doesn’t change
    number when the items to follow grow from one to many. It’s never correct to
    say “as follow.”
    as if/like
    See “like/as if.”
    as of yet/yet
    “As of yet” is a windy and pretentious substitute for plain old English “yet” or
    “as yet,” an unjustifi ed extension of the pattern in sentences like “as of Friday
    the 27th of May.”
    as per/in accordance with
    “Enclosed is the shipment of #2 toggle bolts as per your order of June 14”
    writes the businessman, unaware that not only is the “as” redundant, he is
    sounding very old-fashioned and pretentious. Th e meaning is “in accordance
    with,” or “in response to the request made”; but it is better to avoid these cumbersome
    substitutes altogether: “Enclosed is the shipment of bolts you ordered
    June 14.”
    as such
    Th e expression “as such” has to refer to some status mentioned earlier. “Th e
    CEO was a former drill sergeant, and as such expected everyone to obey his
    orders instantly.” In this case “such” refers back to “former drill sergeant.” But
    often people only imply that which is referred to, as in “Th e CEO had a high
    opinion of himself and as such expected everyone to obey his orders instantly.”
    Here the “such” cannot logically refer back to “opinion.” Replace “as such” with
    Th e misspelling “ascared” is probably infl uenced by the spelling of the synonym
    “afraid,” but the standard English word is “scared.”
    See “aesthetic/ascetic.”
    If you agree with a theory or belief, you subscribe to it, just as you subscribe to
    a magazine.

      الوقت/التاريخ الآن هو الخميس مارس 23, 2017 4:02 pm