Category Archives: writing

Confusing Word Pairs

Words and Rules

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Last week’s post about polishing writing, editing and formatting skills drew a lot of attention.  I picked up new readers and subscribers.  That’s exciting for me, and I thank you!

It seems that many visitors to my blog posts about language are non-native English speaking folks, some students and some not.  I started thinking about our very puzzling language – and believe me, it is puzzling at times even to those of us  that are native to the English language.  I think it is important to look at some of our confusing words and rules and set the record straight – or at least make the record a little less crooked and hopefully less confusing!

Confusing words.  Look at the title of this post?  That’s a  place to start.  The word “pair” has two homophones (sounds the same, spelled differently, different meanings). Pair sounds like pare and pear I pared a pair of pears. 

 Be careful with easily confusable word pairs.  Some pairs of words are often confused in the English language.  They are both correct words, but they have different meanings.  Spell check can’t identify these, of course, because they are both spelled correctly. For instance,

  • where    refers to a location of something or someone  —  Where is my hat?
  • were      is the past tense of the verb “was”   —   We were looking for your hat.
  • their       is the possessive of they   —   Where is their house?
  • there      is a location —   The bread is over there.
  • affect     usually a verb meaning change or shape   — What you eat can affect your weight.
  • effect     the majority of the time it is used as noun that means result or impression  — The  effect of our fatty diets has resulted in obesity as a national problem.
  • accept    this word can have several different meanings.  Some common meaning are to take, receive,  endure or consent.   —  The thrift shop did not accept our furniture.
  •  except  means to exclude  —  Except for furniture, the thrift shop accepts household goods.   (You’ll notice the last sentence example uses both of these words in this example.)

What about pronouns?

  • Who/Whom   these are both pronouns, but we have to remember that pronouns have cases.  You will need to use “who” if the pronoun is acting as the subject of a clause, and “whom” if it’s acting as the object of a verb or preposition, and “whose” if it’s possessive (acting as an adjective).

It’s common to be confused about when to use the pronoun who and when to use the pronoun whom. To find out which one is correct, substitute he and him for the pronouns who and whom. He and who are subject pronouns, and whom and him are object pronouns.

For example:

  • Give the papers to him.
  • To whom should I give the papers?
  • We did invite him to the party.
  • Whom did we invite to the party?
  • He spilled coffee all over the white rug.
  • Who spilled coffee all over the white rug?

Review your work!  Now these words and the sample sentences may seem pretty remedial to many of us, but I can’t tell you how many times I have identified these errors when tutoring or reviewing writing projects  —  even my own.  So review your work carefully for simple errors and to help you gain a better understanding of the words that you use .  It’s always a good idea to have another pair of eyes review your work, it at all possible.  And remember that spell checkers can’t identify meanings.  And don’t forget to get a valuable resource to help you.  One that I like is The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman.  You’ll find it any of the well known book sellers like or  It is also available in eBook format.

These are just a few of the many confusing words in the English language.  There are many more out there that cause problems for most of us.   For me, a troublesome pair of words is

  • incite    v to move to action or to put in motion*  —     She incited me to learn more about SEO and how it can help me market my business.
  • insight  the power or act of seeing into a situation*  —  To those of us that are new to SEO, the presentation gave us great insight.

What words or word pairs do you find confusing?  Do you find yourself looking up the same word over and over again?  Share with me.  I’d love to hear from you!

As always, thanks for listening and reading….

  — *definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition.


Filed under writing

Learning more: Writing, editing and formatting

You can never stop learning and polishing the way you communicate.  This is especially true with your writing skills.  In this age of “do it fast,” it is sometimes easy to forget to put your best words forward.  In our virtual world, everyone can check out your skills and level of expertise in an instant.

So for those of us that are established firmly in our world of writing, editing and blogging, how do we improve?  I think a good way is to learn something from every new project that we do.  I was reminded of this last week when reviewing a Master thesis for a student/client of mine, I ran across the word posttest, which looked really weird to me.  I thought, it has to be post-test or post test.  Got the old Merriam  Webster’s out and learned that posttest is the correct spelling for this term.

By the way, the definition is:  A test given to students after completion of an instructional program or segment and often used in conjunction with a pretest to measure their achievement and the effectiveness of the program.

Throughout this editing project, I was reminded of much more than the proper way to use “posttest” in a sentence or how to spell it.  Editing for grammar, spelling and sentence structure is only one part of being a good writer or editor.  When working with college students, being up to speed on APA and MLA styles, is essential.  So I use each student project as an opportunity to learn and reinforce my skillset.

Often a student writes well, but is at a total loss as to how to format their thesis paper. Although every university issues a set of guidelines to to follow for thesis and/or graduate research projects, it is the rare student that fully understands the ins and outs of formatting their paper correctly.  But that’s okay because it gives me an opportunity to help them and to relearn these things myself. It’s kind of like using some software programs.  If you don’t use them every day, it’s hard to remember exactly how to do things. (Think about Excel – unless you use this every day, it is easy to forget how to do certain things).

Some of the things that I most frequently have to adjust in a graduate thesis project are:

  • Heading levels
  • Seriation
  • Display results (graphs, figures, charts)
  • Reference lists

Click the image to zoom in on APA format for referencing a blog post or comment

Since I do this type of editing work frequently, I keep a current hardcopy on hand of the most current MLA and APA manuals and , require each student to provide me as much as information as possible about their degree program and always ask for a copy of the Guidelines issues by their thesis committee.  I also stress to the student that their job is to do their research and develop their project, while mine is to guide them and make suggestions to them so that they meet the standard set by their university.  I NEVER write any part of their paper for them.  I only give them guidance and suggestions.   I also create a binder of those “most used” examples for my future use.  And last, but not least, I continue to develop my list of online resources, like the Purdue  University OWL — in my opinion one of the best!

Working on these types of projects allows me to create a great portfolio of experience in thesis editing and allows me some of  the finest job satisfaction.  There is nothing quite like helping a student achieve their goal of education.  Having worked in higher education for a small private university, I had first-hand exposure to this type of job satisfaction.  It is exciting to surround yourself with those that are enthusiastic about learning and their futures.

And we can learn so much from students……


Filed under writing

Writing and Critiquing

Writing Challenge for You!.

Thought you might enjoy this post from Writing4Effect!

And here’s another good post about Critique Groups


Happy Writing….


Filed under writing

2011 Good Housekeeping Fiction Contest deadline nears

write it

I ran across this contest on one of my favorite blogs, Sherry Zander’s  Writing4Effect.  This is a great opp for many of my writing buddies, but time is running out to enter.  The Good Housekeeping Short Story Fiction Contest deadline is September 1st!  Get your manuscript in.  Check out more about the content, including rules and potential prizes at the contest link on the Good Housekeeping website.

This is just one of many opportunities that are out there.  Check out the local writers’ associations where you live for more contests that may interest you.

Why participate in writing contests?  Aside from the potential monetary and publication benefits, you’ll develop your writing portfolio and it’s also a great exercise in tuning not only your writing skills, but also those of performing within guidelines.  Deadlines, word counts, focusing on a specific subject, accepting critique of your writing — all of these are important areas that will help you be a more polished professional.  So let’s talk about these ideas.

Deadlines – Sticking to deadlines is a valuable skill.  If you aspire to do freelance work, this is something you will have to learn to keep your clients!

Word Counts  – Many of us writers have a hard time saying what we need to say in a concise and “to the point” manner.  Again, this is an important skill.  And entering these contests that set guidelines for you to work within will help you improve your ability to adhere to word counts.  If you want to write for newspapers and/or magazines, you’ve got to pay attention to word counts.  And what’s more, you cannot let yourself get upset when parts of your writing gets cut.  It’s all part of the territory.  It’s okay to get upset, but get over it.  As someone who has been on the editor side of a publication, I understand the importance of balance copy with advertising space.  Now that I am more on the writer side, it helps me to keep things in perspective when I do find parts of my column getting cut.

Subject focus  –  staying on target with your writing is another challenge.  If you run off on  tangents when you write,  try practicing developing an outline for your writing project.  Sometimes if you “map it” you can see how ideas fit into each other and this will assure that you are staying on the path.

Criticism of Writing  –  Like I said above, it is important that you are willing to let your writing be edited and this includes accepting constructive criticism by others.  Think about joining a writing group that has a critique sector where you can practice both giving and accepting criticism.

Okay now you’re ready to start on those contest submissions.  It might be too late for you to get your manuscript ready for the 2011 Good Housekeeping Fiction Contest,  but there are plenty more opps out there (see the links below).   Talk to your fellow writers, look online and be sure to check with some of your favorite publications to explore some of their contests.

Check it out and happy writing and competing!!


Filed under communication, success, Uncategorized, writing

Libraries — community assets

Library offers services online |

Flagler County Library, Palm Coast, Florida

What would we do without our libraries?

In these challenging economic times, our libraries do more than ever to serve us.  In our community of Palm Coast, Flagler County, Florida, online services make it even easier to explore all that our library has to offer.  The library today is much more than “just books.” Our library even offers a “one-stop” location for Passport Services.

Read more in this week’s column in The St. Augustine Record about what goes on at the Flagler County, Florida library.

How about your community library?  Do you take the time to discover what it can do for you?  And more importantly, when you use the library, do you  stop and say “thank you” to all the great folks that keep our libraries running and make them a safe and friendly place to relax, explore and learn?  Think about it!!

Read this week’s column by clicking here or on the link above.  Thanks for visiting, and please leave me a comment!!

Related articles


Filed under community, success, thank you, words, writing

Finding your Inspiration.


Image by peevee@ds via Flickr

How are you inspired?

Have you ever thought about it?

What drives you do get something done?  Does it take a person, an event, something you read, or maybe a personal experience?  It seems that ideas pop into this jumbled up brain of mine throughout the day.  I hear something or read something or sometimes just sit quietly on my patio in the early morning or the late evening and listen to the sounds around me and am inspired with an idea about something I’d like to write or get done.

I think the key is to listen to that little voice inside of you; be in touch with your senses, and you will be filled with inspiration.  Today we are so caught up in the hectic lives we lead, that we forget to just stop and listen, ponder, think and take it all in.

Try it and you may be surprised

Sometimes just flipping through an old photo album (yes, the old fashioned kind are nice, but even your digital pictures will do) will help you get in touch with a memory that is buried deep inside your brain and is now jolted free by that photo.  Then act on it.  Write that note to your aunt or uncle who doesn’t use email or call that friend from years back that you’ve been meaning to reconnect with.  Or launch a bigger project.  You’ll have to decide what the bigger project is.

For me, a few years back, I decided upon building a family cookbook/memoir to honor my family  — my dad and mom (now both gone), my brother, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins and the list goes on.  But more importantly for me, I felt it was something I needed to do to leave for our children, grandchildren and future generations so that they will always be able to connect with the past.

Now my challenge is to complete that seed of inspiration and see it to fruition.  You’ll note that up above, I said “a few years back,” and that cookbook is still not in print.  But it’s getting closer and I am determined to see it through soon!

What’s your inspiration and what are you going to do about it?

My suggestion is to write down those ideas that are jumpstarted by whatever inspires you.  But don’t just sit on them.  Make the time to complete your thoughts and record them into a journal so you can go back to them later or better yet right now.

Try it.

If you look around you, you may be surprised at where you’ll discover your inspiration.  The important thing is that you find it.

Have a great week of writing, thinking and communicating.  I’ll update you on that cookbook soon!


Filed under blogging, communication, thinking, writing

>To Reply or Not to Reply – That is the Question……….


Recently a Facebook friend made a comment on her wall to please not  hit “reply all” when responding to an email. It seemed like a post of frustration, and I can certainly relate. Back in September, I posted about just this habit. Check it out at this link.  And remember unless you are working with a very small group of colleagues/friends, use “reply all” with caution.  If you get an email where you are in a bcc, it’s definitely not a good idea to use “reply all.”    Remember that sometimes the reason that a sender puts you in a “bcc” field is due to the large number of recipients.
  If you think email etiquette isn’t getting a lot of attention – think again.  A simple Google search returns nearly 2.5 million results!  Delving deep into the results returns a lot credible sites, blogs and papers about how we should approach email, giving us best practices when emailing – especially in the professional arena.
As a researcher at heart, I found it interesting that these sources covered a wide variety of industries and originated from the U.S., Europe, Australia,  and Asia.  So, I’d say, “yes, email etiquette still gets lots of attention as a global concern.  But do we use it in our day-to-day activities and what are some key things we should remember?

Back to what I said earlier about “bcc,” remember that it is not always necessary or recommended to advertise everyone’s address.  Use discretion when writing to a large group.   Rule of thumb: treat their addresses with the same amount of care that you would want your own treated. Be courteous.

Some other suggestions:

  • Watch your grammar – don’t get into “text or IM mode”
  • Don’t shout at your recipients, i.e. refrain from using ALL CAPS like this
  • Reply only if really necessary – think about it.  How many “ok” emails do you get or send??  Are they necessary?  Sometimes, yes, but not always
  • Use effective subject lines that define the content of your intended message
  • Keep your signature line to 4 lines or less
I am sure you can think of more suggestions.   And if you honestly can’t, do your own online search, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of resources to help you.  One of the better articles I found was from Partner to Partner Advisory by Dana Casperson.  It is dated  October 2002 – and we’re still struggling with the same issues about email etiquette.  Go figure.
Send me your comments about your email issues.  I’d love to hear from you.


Filed under communication, text message, writing