Write For Your Life Wednesday (Commonly Confused Words Cheat Sheet)

I don’t know everything there is to know about writing, but I’m learning as I go, and what I do know, I’d like to share with those of you who love the craft. That’s why I’m starting Write For Your Life Wednesdays, where I’ll post tidbits of priceless info I’ve picked up from other great authors, bloggers, and the good old fashioned act of making mistakes.

This first Write For Your Life post may be the most invaluable of all, and I’m going to give it to you in the form of a nice and neat cheat sheet. Following is a list of commonly confused words. Some of them get jumbled because our fingers slide along the keyboard trying to keep up with our imaginations and sometimes miss a vital part of the message. We know these words and how they should be used, but once we type them wrong, they can be hard to spot. Then there are some on the list that get mixed up because we really didn’t know there was a difference. I have been guilty of several of these, but no more! Keep this list handy, and once you’re ready to polish your manuscript, do a quick “edit” + “find” for them and voila – you have a much cleaner creation.

Ready or not, here are 26 rules to write by:

1) Effect – noun vs. Affect – verb

2) Counsel – advice or guidance vs. A Counsel – a lawyer or counselor vs. A Council – body of people assembled for a purpose (the members are Councillors)

3) Adverse – usually applies to situations & means hostile or antagonistic vs. Averse – used to describe a person’s attitude & means reluctant

4) Lightening – to illuminate or make less heavy vs. Lightning – bolts of electricity

5) Rack – to strain, as in rack your brain vs. Wrack – an old time form of wreck

6) Compliment – to praise vs. Complement – to complete or make perfect

7) Course – direction or route, to run through vs. Coarse – harsh, vulgar, rough, not delicate

8) Conscience – moral principles vs. Conscious – aware, alert, having active mental faculties

9) Vile – wretched vs. Vial – small container for holding liquid

10) Break – to smash or fracture, to rest or pause vs. Brake – to slow a vehicle, the mechanisms to slow a vehicle

11) Teeming – swarming with vs. Teaming – to join as a team

12) Creak – a squeak vs. Creek – a stream

13) Waist – narrow part of the torso vs. Waste – to wear away, to destroy, to use more than you need

14) Merry – happy vs. Marry – to join, as in man & wife

15) Bear – to hold or support, to bring forth or give birth, to move as in bear north, the ferocious beast or snugly teddy vs. Bare – naked

16) Peak – the top or summit vs. Peek – to peep or snoop vs. Pique – to excite, as in one’s interest

17) Lose – to misplace something or not win vs. Loose – not tight

18) Feet – the plural of foot vs. Feat – an accomplishment or a goal

Time for some annoying easy ones!

19) Your – possessive vs. You’re – you are

20) Their – possessive vs. They’re – they are vs. There – that place

21) Were – was vs. We’re – we are vs. Where – which place vs. Wear – to adorn, as in clothes

22) Its – possessive vs. It’s – it is

23) To – used to indicate a direction, the opposite of from vs. Two – a number vs. Too – in addition, to an excessive extent

24) Then – at that time, next in order of time vs. Than – used to compare two words

Time for two bonus cheats!

25) Always take the S off towards

26) Change alright to all right

What commonly confused words trick you? I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so if you think of more, post them below and make us all better writers.

I hope this cheat sheet helps you polish your work. And make sure you subscribe by email at the top of the Home page to receive future Write For Your Life posts in your inbox.

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2 thoughts on “Write For Your Life Wednesday (Commonly Confused Words Cheat Sheet)

  1. This is an excellent resource! Here are a few I can think of, although I wont be expanding upon them due to time restraints:
    Principle vs. Principal
    Capital vs. Capitol
    Of vs. Have (it’s not “should of done it,” it just sounds that way in contraction form)

    • Ooh, good ones, Brian! I knew there were a ton missing. The list actually started with 20, but then I tackled some tedious edits on book 3 and came up with several more.

      Of vs. Have, LOL! I must admit, being the Okie I am, I made the “should of” “could of” mistake way too often when I first started writing, back when I was still using a pen and paper. I’ve had people tell me “Save your notebooks. They’ll be worth money some day.” But I would die of embarrassment if the original draft of Descension went public.

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