Words that sound similar, or homonyms, can haunt both writers and editors alike. Transforming your thoughts into the written word can often allow homonyms to sneak onto the page. If you are aware of the most commonly misused words, and even some phrases that can be misconstrued, it may be easier to catch them as a writer or an editor.
Affect and Effect are constantly used incorrectly.
When you affect something, you are influencing it.
My English teacher had a positive affect on my learning.
Effect is a noun, and refers to the result of a situation.
The new medicine I am taking has several side effects.
Accept and Except
Accept is a verb, and means to receive.
I graciously accepted my birthday present with a smile.
Except is a preposition, and refers to excluding.
She purchased everything to make the lasagna, except for the mozzarella cheese.
Elicit and Illicit
Elicit is a verb, and means to evoke.
His mother was unable to elicit any details from him about the party.
Illicit is an adjective, and means unlawful.
Mrs. Robinson was very upset about her son’s illicit behavior at the party.
Principle and Principal
A principle is a noun, and refers to standards or basic truth.
A principal is also a noun, but refers to the head of a school or organization.
The principal of the school is responsible for instilling good principles in the teachers and students.
Your and You’re
Your is a possessive noun. You’re is a contraction of you are.
You’re going to catch a cold if you don’t wear your jacket outside.
Test your knowledge of problem phrases: Which do you think is correct, A or B? (Answers listed at the bottom)
A. I am supposed to be to work early tomorrow.
B. I am suppose to be to work early tomorrow.
A. I walked toward the beach.
B. I walked towards the beach.
A. I could care less.
B. I couldn’t care less.
Correct Answers: 1) A, 2) A, 3) B
-Ashley Troutman, Managing Editor