Here is a brilliant article on misused words – one that I had to leave unedited. It is not new for the written language to become so conformed to the spoken word that the original subtleties find themselves lost in time. Five hundred years ago there were several different spellings of the name ‘Shakespeare‘, this, and other words, are regularly incorrectly used because of their phonetic similarities.
Consider the use of ‘to’ and ‘too’, or ‘gist’ and ‘just’ – they sound so similar yet have very different uses and meanings. This article by Rob Reinalda is a must-read for all bloggers!
(the article is taken from ragan.com)
The most common verbal errors spread the way the common cold does: One person picks it up from another, usually quite casually. The next thing you know, nearly everybody’s infected.
I compare these transgressions to a cold, as I am likening the two elements. Think of this: The critic compared his voice to that of Caruso. To draw a contrast, I would use compare with. “Caruso was a great singer, compared with you, Larry; you howl like an alley cat in labor.”
So, let’s treat the linguistic outbreaks—with some usage antibiotics.
Here’s hoping they will affect you positively, yielding a salubrious effect. Wow. These two near-homonyms are tough, because each can be used as a noun or a verb. Those are just the most common usages for each.
Effect as a verb is to bring about, as in to effect change.
Affect as a noun—pronounced AFF-ect—denotes a person’s emotional state, especially when it’s visible. This one is probably of little use to you—unless you’re a clinical psychologist—except for the purposes of recognizing its misuse: “Hey, Smitty, you spelled effect with an A, you yucklehead!” That’ll affect his affect, all right—and quite effectively, at that.
Henceforth, ol’ Smitty might become reticent, or reluctant to speak. Although reticent has come to be used in place of reluctant, the phrase “reticent to speak” should be avoided. Better not to say anything.
Time now to home in on another widespread problem. Hone means to sharpen; one does not hone in on a target. Rather, one would home in, like a homing pigeon. A honing pigeon would be unusual, and probably dangerous. Switchblade-toting birds should be avoided, I say.
Also to be avoided is the misuse of comprise, notably in the phrase “is comprised of,” when “is composed of” is meant. I’ll say this once: The whole comprises the parts, not the other way around. OK, I lied. I’m saying it again: The whole comprises the parts, not the other way around. Remember it this way: New England comprises Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
If you want to go with the components first and conclude with the entirety, use constitute. In that case, please start with Connecticut, which is, after all, the Constitution State.
I continually remind people that [sic] continuously means incessantly, whereas continually means repeatedly, in frequent intervals. Many dictionaries concede that their usage has become virtually indistinguishable, but we do try to cater to purists.
In doing so, we’ve developed a rapport with our audience — not to be confused with a report (pronounced REE-por, as I’ve heard it said). That’s a simple mishearing of a term, but viral it has gone, nonetheless.