Is Alright All Right?

This one is a personal pet peeve of mine. I see people use alright all the time. Technically, it is not a word. It is a misspelling of all right. Every time I see it I want to scratch it out and write it correctly.

For language geeks like me, it is with great trepidation that I learned that alright is mildly acceptable in British English along the fringes. Eeek. Thank you to Grammar Girl for enlightening me on this one. According to her site, the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style says it is unacceptable in one place, yet in another states that it means satisfactory. Huh? Looks like we’re in for a gradual change here in America, too… though I don’t have to like it.

Are, Our, Hour

Do you know anyone who mixes these words up when they write? They usually know what they want to say, but when it comes to writing it down, many people find it easy to mix up are, our and hour.

Are & Our

Lots of people pronounce our like are when they talk, so when they write, they don’t think about it. In order to have our written words taken seriously, however, you need to know the difference.

Our & Hour

For those people who pronounce these two words alike, spelling can also interfere when they write.

Are

Are is a plural verb or helping verb.

The flowers are in full bloom.

Our

Our is a possessive pronoun.

Our house is blue and white.

Hour

Hour refers to a period of sixty minutes.

The hour passed slowly.

Writing Tip: Are We Allowed to Read Aloud?

writing tipHere’s a good writing tip. This is a pair of words that I normally think are pretty self-explanatory… yet I continually see them misused. Allowed or Aloud? What do you think?

Allowed

Allowed means you have permission to do something.

The children are allowed to play with the dog.

Aloud

Aloud means something can be heard.

She spoke aloud without realizing it.

Simple, right? Right! Now you never need to worry about getting them mixed up again. What words do you see misused? What words do you have trouble with?

To, Too & Two

Ah, the beauty of the English language. Here we are with three different words that sound exactly the same. People mix them up all the time. Well, most of them.

To, too and two all sound alike, yet mean completely different things. Technically, they are homophones. They sound alike, it’s true. They are not the same thing, however.

Two

To be fair, two isn’t mixed up with the others as often as the other two are. Everyone knows two is a number, right?

There were two horses grazing in the field.

To

You would think everyone would remember this one. It is on all those To and From tags we use on gifts at the holidays.

To is a preposition that precedes a noun.

I handed the book to Lori.

She was taking a trip to England.

To is also an infinitive that precedes a verb.

We went to eat at a four star restaurant.

They went outside to play.

Hmmm. Is it a coincidence that to has two uses?

Too

Too is often used as a synonym for also.

Shelly wanted to go, too.

Macaroni and cheese is my favorite, too.

Surprisingly, too also has a second usage. When it precedes an adverb or adjective, too can mean excessively.

The car was traveling too fast.

The kids ate too many cookies.

So, maybe it isn’t a coincidence that both to and too have two ways to use them.

Breathe In and Take a Deep Breath

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.

Got it? :)

Breaching the Breech

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.

Breach

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.

Breech

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.

Make sense?

Affect and Effect

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.

Rare Exceptions

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.

Assume and As Soon

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.

Get it? :)

Thanks to Joy for suggesting this word mix up.

Passed and Past

This is another one of those sets of words that I don’t quite understand why there is all the mix-up.

Passed

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.

Past

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.

Who or Whom?

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.

Who

When you’re using who, the person you’re talking about is the one doing something in the sentence.

Who cleaned up the table?

Whom

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.

Quick Trick

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. :)