Did you know there is a difference between the words breathe and breath? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone write something like “She took a deep breathe.”
Let’s take a look at this. Yes, they both use ea in the words, which can give a long ee sound. However, ea can also give a short e sound like in the word death.
In fact, let’s use that as a mnemonic. If you don’t take a breath, death may come to call. They rhyme, so it will be easier to remember to use the word breath when you need to.
After taking a deep breath, she began to relax.
Now, if you need to use the word breathe, you do need the extra e on the end.
Breathe deeply of the salty air.
These two words are often confused with one another. Since I know a lot of people in the childbirth field, I see these words a lot. Not even all the birth people use them correctly, which surprises me a bit.
A breach is a gap in something or a violation of something. To breach something is to break, break through or break open something.
They were in breach of contract.
The enemy attempted to breach the castle walls.
A breech is the back or lower end of something.
The baby was breech; the midwife could see his bottom emerging first.
Yes, there is only one letter difference between these two words, but as you can see, they mean completely different things. Granted, you could use breach in reference to birth, but it certainly wouldn’t mean the same thing as a baby being born bottom first.
The obstetrician created a breach in the mother’s belly when he performed the cesarean.
Affect and effect are often mixed up. With only one letter difference, it can be confusing. However, if you remember that affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun, it helps immensely.
Affect means “to influence,” so if you ask yourself when writing if this is the meaning you want, you’ll probably use the proper word.
The book affected me deeply.
Effect is like a result. If this meaning fits what you’re writing, use the e.
The effect was dazzling.
Of course, like most things, there are exceptions to this rule.
If you are using affect in regards to psychology, you can use it as a noun. It is often used in this way to describe a mood in psychological terms.
Her face reflected a sad affect.
Likewise, effect can be used as a verb in special cases when you want to “bring about” something.
The mothers hoped the nurse-in would effect the change they wanted.
How many times have you heard these two mixed up? A lot of people use assume instead of as soon. In reality, this is a totally different phrase that needs to be used appropriately.
Which would you use?
I’d assume eat cardboard than go to another of those boring meetings.
I’d as soon eat cardboard than go to another of those boring meetings.
If you chose the second one, congratulations! If you chose the first one, we need to talk.
Assume means you are making an assumption or educated guess. And, everyone knows the old saying about assume, right? When you assume you make an ass out of u and me. Eeek! Early chat speak!
The correct way to use assume is the following sentence.
I assume that you will be bringing snacks to the meeting.
Anyway, using the words as soon is like using rather.
I’d rather die than go through that again.
I’d as soon die before I go through that again.
Thanks to Joy for suggesting this word mix up.
This is another one of those sets of words that I don’t quite understand why there is all the mix-up.
Use passed if you are using a form of the verb “to pass.” If you can write the sentence in the present tense using pass, you want to use passed for the past tense.
The teacher learned that none of the students passed the test.
The teacher suspected that none of the students would pass the test. See?
Amy passed the Brussels sprouts.
After a long illness, the woman passed away.
Use past when you are referring to a time or a distance.
The team performed better during past seasons than they are now.
The girl walked her dog past the school.
In the past, people used more horses than automobiles.
So, to recap:
People aren’t past away; they passed away.
You don’t walk passed the library; you walk past the library.
Do you use who or whom? There is a lot of confusion about these two pronouns. The answer is you use who if it refers to the subject of the sentence and whom if it refers to the object in the sentence. Clear as mud, huh? It may be hard to remember those days of diagramming sentences in English class (do they even do that anymore?), but actually this is quite simple.
When you’re using who, the person you’re talking about is the one doing something in the sentence.
Who cleaned up the table?
When you use whom, you are talking about someone as the object in the sentence.
Georgia invited whom?
Georgia is the subject of the sentence, and whom is the object because you want to know who she invited.
If you can restate the sentence using the words him or her, use whom.
Georgia invited him.
Remember the m on the end of both him and whom and you’ll do all right.
What you write represents you to your readers. In other words, if you don’t make a good first impression, they may put down your book or click away from your website. Misspellings, grammatical errors and other problems with your writing can send people running away as fast as they can. If you want to be taken seriously in your field, don’t write with any errors. Too much pressure, you say? Ah, this is where your friendly, neighborhood editor comes in.
It is the editor’s place to make you look your best. They polish up your writing and present you as shiny and clean as your mother did when you were a child. No spelling mistakes, no writing errors. It is the equivalent of washing the barbecue sauce off your chin and combing your hair.
Let’s say you have a website where you offer your educated opinion in your niche market. Do you really think anyone will take you seriously if you don’t have all your T’s crossed and your i’s dotted?
What about submitting a manuscript to an agent? If you don’t clean it up and tighten up your writing, you have a good chance of ending up in the slush pile that no one reads.
Have an editor go through your writing. Don’t choose your friend, the English teacher… s/he means well, but they have not been trained in editing material for conciseness and grammatical correctness. Pay the fee and hire a real editor. They come in a wide range of pay scales online. Choose one you get along with that you can afford. Let them do their job and you’ll look perfect to your readers.
One error that really bothers me, and I see it in emails all the time, is which and witch. Again, this one should be obvious, right? You wouldn’t say, “Witch one do you want?” Yet, people do. This is one of those errors that makes me want to slam my head into my desk.
Witch, witchcraft, witches at Halloween, witches in books…. this is nothing more nor less than a name for a type of person. Whether they are modern witches who practice paganism or witches of yore in stories, this word describes a particular type of person. With the popularity of Harry Potter, you’d think that this meaning would be even clearer.
Hermione was the brightest witch of her age.
Which is a word that offers us a choice. Which one do you want? This is the correct usage. Which lets us know what our options are.
Which sandwich do you prefer; chicken or beef?
Please, please, please don’t use witch when you should use which.
This should be a no-brainer, but alas, it isn’t so. I see it all the time in emails and blog posts. When do you use weather versus whether?
Well, the word weather obviously should be used if you are talking about how sunny it is outside, or how the rain is pouring down. Thunderstorms, rainbows and starry nights all relate to weather.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…
Whether indicates that there is a choice to be made.
He didn’t know whether to go with the chicken or the roast turkey for his sandwich.
Please, if you’re writing about a choice, don’t use weather! Use whether!
For you livestock fans, there is a third choice. Luckily it isn’t a term in common use among the majority out there or we’d probably have this in the mix, too. Wether is a neutered male sheep or goat.
The wether nuzzled against her hand, looking for a treat.
It’s true. While many people use the word “irregardless” when they speak and you can actually find this word in many dictionaries now, it is not a proper word, or as the dictionaries say, it is nonstandard. Most of our dictionaries today are descriptive rather than prescriptive; they reflect words in common usage rather than suggest what usage should be.
Let’s take a look at the word.
It is often mistakenly used instead of the word “regardless.” Regardless already means “without regard.” So, adding the suffix -less turns the word regard into a negative. Adding the prefix ir- makes it a double negative. This makes irregardless mean “without without regard.”
I seriously doubt most people who say irregardless mean without without regard. So does that mean they do have regard for the topic at hand? 😉
So, if someone says the word irregardless to you, you can ask them to clarify their stance, as they are being redundant.
They were looking forward to attending the game, regardless of the outcome.
Doesn’t that sound better?