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Commonly Confused Words
By Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CBF

Communication Articles
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List of commonly misued words in business

I receive dozens of email messages and perhaps a dozen memos and letters a day. I have been compiling a list of commonly misused words for several months. Here is that list:

  • To Accept is a verb meaning to receive or to agree. Except means to exclude, to take or leave out.

  • Adverse means antagonistic, or bad. Averse means disinclined, or opposed.

  • Affect is usually a verb meaning to act upon, to change or to influence. Effect is usually a noun meaning to accomplish a result, or to create a consequence - to cause something.

  • Altogether means entirely. All together means gathered in one place

  • Amoral means not concerned with morality. Immoral means not conforming to accepted norms of morality.

  • Appraise means to assess. Apprise means to inform.

  • To Assure is to convince or guarantee. To Ensure is to make certain.

  • Compare To means to assert a likeness exists. To Compare With involves analyzing for similarities and differences.

  • A Council is a group of advisors. Counsel means to advise.

  • To Complement is a verb meaning to complete. Compliment is to praise, it is an expression of admiration.

  • Continual means intermittent, repeating regularly. Continuous means continuing without interruption for long periods.

  • Definite means certain. Definitive means decisively and with authority.

  • Device is a noun referring to machinery or some other apparatus. Devise is a verb meaning to create or develop.

  • Discreet means to be circumspect, careful not to attract attention. Discrete means separate or individually distinct.

  • Disinterested means objective or impartial. Uninterested means not interested, or bored.

  • Elicit means to draw out. Illicit means improper, unlawful or illegal.

  • Eminent means distinguished or respected. Imminent means about to happen, or ready to take place.

  • Fortuitous means happening by chance. Fortunate means lucky.

  • Farther refers to distance. Further indicates mental distance.

  • Imply means to suggest, hint or to state indirectly. Infer means to deduce, to reach a conclusion, to reach an opinion based on facts and reasoning.

  • Lead is a metal; or alternatively to guide or to go ahead to show the way. Led is the past tense of the verb "to lead."

  • Lose means to no longer possess, or to misplace. Loose means either not tight, or to unfasten.

  • Proceed means to go forward. Precede means to come or go before something or someone else.

  • A Perquisite is a special privilege. A Prerequisite is something required as a prior condition.

  • Stationary means unmoving. Stationery refers to writing paper and envelopes.

  • Through means finished. Thru doesn't mean anything. It is not a word - it is slang.

  • Weather refers to climate conditions. Whether relates to alternatives or choices.

Reprinted with permission from the Covering Credit Newsletter 7/30/03 Edition © 2003

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