Most Commonly Misused Words in Writing

commonly misused words writing mistakesOne of the most common errors I see when reading anything from students (and even adults) is the tendency to mix up homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings, like “to,” “too,” and “two.” These words seem to plague nearly everyone! And I admit, even I am prone to making these mistakes if I am rushed, tired, or otherwise distracted. That being said, these mistakes are sometimes jarring to read and can give readers a less than ideal opinion of you, even if it was nothing more than a typo. To help, I’ve come up with a list of commonly misused words and they’re their definitions in hopes of preventing this sort of error in the future.  Happy writing!

Commonly Misused Words and their Definitions:

Accept / Except:

  • Accept: This word means to take or receive:

It is an honor to accept this award.

  • Except: Use this word when you want to exclude something:

I like all vegetables except broccoli.

Affect / Effect

  • Affect: This word is used as a verb; in other words, it is an action:

I am greatly affected by the intense heat.

  • Effect: This word is used as a noun; in simplified terms, it is a thing:

The special effects in the movie were very impressive.

Hear / Here

  • Hear: This word refers to our ears and hearing sounds:

Did you hear what the teacher just said?

  • Here: This word refers to location:

Please set your items right here.

Than / Then

  • Than: This word is used to show comparison:

I am hoping I do better than I did last time!

  • Then: This word is used to express time or the order in which events occur:

I woke up, and then I brushed my teeth.

Their / There / They’re

  • Their: This word is used to show possession or ownership:

This is their new house.

  • There: This word is used to describe location:

I saw the ball over there.

  • They’re: This word is the contraction for “they are”:

They’re busy right now, but please come back later.

To / Too / Two

  • To: This word is used to describe location:

I am going to the store.

  • Too: This word can be used to mean “very,” “also,” or “a lot”:

I have eaten too much cake, too.

  • Two: This word describes the number 2:

My little brother just turned two this year.

Which / Witch

  • Which: This word is used when you want to specify a specific item:

Do you know which shirt you would like to buy?

  • Witch: This word refers to the person you might see during Halloween or while reading Harry Potter:

The witch stirred her cauldron while she recited the spell.

Your / You’re

  • Your: Use this word to show possession or ownership:

May I please borrow your pencil?

  • You’re: This word is a contraction for “you are”:

You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry!

Of course, there are many more commonly misused words in the English language that can be confusing, but this list of very common homophone mix-ups should give you a nice start. (And, if you are still struggling to write, try checking one of these posts: building writing skills or mistakes to avoid.) What do you think? What words do you often confuse? Have you seen other mixed-up homophones that I haven’t mentioned? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Author: Emily Karth, Program Coordinator at A Grade Ahead


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