Skip to main content.

Commonly Confused Words

Proofread your text before publishing it. Relying on a spell-check tool can be risky—for example, it will not distinguish between words such as "here" and "hear."




affect (v) influence

The number of users affects the response time.

effect (v) bring about, cause

To effect a change, cut down the number of users

effect (n) result

The effect of too many users is slow response time.




all acceptable in all cases except with a personal pronoun

All the settings have defaults.

all of used only with a personal pronoun

All of them are listed in Appendix A.




already beforehand

The writer had already started the outline.

all ready completely ready

The system will be all ready for testing.

all right satisfactory (adj)

certainly (adv)

All right is correct. Alright is not correct.




among three or more items considered collectively

It’s difficult to choose among the many content management systems.

between two or more items considered individually

We’re deciding between Houston, Paris, and Tokyo for the conference.




amount used with collective and mass nouns

Equipping a training center costs a large amount of money.

number used with countable nouns

They bought a large number of computers for the training center.




assure set a person’s mind at rest

We assured them that the project was on track.

ensure make certain

The procedures were tested thoroughly to ensure that they were correct.

insure protect with insurance

In most states, cars must be insured before they are registered.




because show a cause-effect relationship

The project was finished on time because everyone met the schedule deadlines.

since from then until now

There have been three people in this position since last spring.




can know how to, be able to

The server can support up to 45 servers.

may have permission to, be possible to

You may start working on the project now.

might be possible to (less certain than “may”)

We might finish the project on schedule.




comprise contain

A jury comprises 12 people.

compose create by joining

A jury is composed of 12 people.

constitute make up, form

Twelve people constitute a jury.




discrete individually distinct, not continuous

Conversion consists of five discrete steps.

discreet prudent, showing good judgment

Be discreet when you call me at work.




farther physical distance

Don’t place the unit farther than 10 feet from a vent.

further in addition, to a greater degree

A further problem is the lack of funds.




if in the event that

Tell me if the deadline is Friday.

when at what time (don’t use "if and when"

Let us know when you’ll finish the draft.

whether with alternatives, used instead of "if"

Ask whether it's due on Friday or Monday.




imply suggest

He implied that I didn’t understand.

infer draws a conclusion

From user questions, the staff inferred that the manual was wrong.




its possessive form of the pronoun "it"

The printer needs to have its toner cartridge replaced.

it’s contraction meaning "it is"

It’s time to replace the toner cartridge.




lay put or set down

Never lay the cartridge on its side.

lie be at rest, assume a horizontal position

Al’s dog lies under his chair at work.




less used with collective nouns

We need less staff on this project.

fewer used with countable nouns

We need fewer managers on this project.




precede come before

The Internet preceded the World Wide Web

proceed continue, go on

Proceed to the next lesson.




press put force on

Press the Reset button to start again.

type press a character key on a keyboard

Type the letter A.

click position the mouse pointer; then press and release the mouse button once.

Do not use "click on."

Acceptable for writing instructions, but not as a way to describe a web link; use descriptive text instead.

Don’t: Click here for Orientation information
Do: You will also need orientation information

Do: Click the Cut button. (an instruction)

hit strike with force

Don’t hit the keys on the calculator.




pick up to gather up in the hand or hands; to acquire, obtain Students must show their university ID for identity verification to pick up packages.
pickup a stop to collect passengers, goods, or the people or things collected Arrangements made for outgoing package pickup.
pick-up a stop to collect passengers, goods, or the people or things collected Although still grammatically correct ("Arrangements made for outgoing package pick-up", the university prefers to refrain from using the hyphenated version.




principal most important

The principal topics are written.

principle rule

Follow the principles of good writing.




regardless correct

The meeting will continue, regardless of the forecast.

irregardless incorrect

(Do not use.)




take to convey, away from

The train will take you to the city.

bring to convey, toward

The bus will bring you here.




that may refer to people or to things; introduces a phrase essential to the meaning of the word it modifies

We purchased the software that provided the necessary formats.

which refers to things; introduces a phrase that is not essential to the meaning of the word it modifies, and so should be followed by a comma

The new software, which will be installed next week, provides the necessary features.

who refers to people

Charlotte is the writer who won the prize.



More information

Marketing support

Access templates, presentation tools and submit marketing job requests.

Back to top of screen