“Discreet” vs “discrete”

Discrete is just an alternate spelling of discreet, you might think. And it’s understandable, what with all the Canadian, British and American spelling differences where an E is moved here, or a U inserted there.

However, in this case, discrete and discreet are two entirely different words. Here’s the difference between them:

Discrete means distinct or separate. (The organization is broken up into five discrete divisions.)

Discreet means prudent, tactful, or unobtrusive. (She discreetly informed her friend he had broccoli in his teeth.)

So, how do you tell the difference between discreet and discrete? One method that helps me to remember is: the Es in discrete are separate from each other, and the word discrete refers to things that are separated. Kind of silly, but it helps!

 

Posted in Spelling & Grammar.

“Weary” vs “wary”

This word confusion is commonly seen, but it’s also one with a very simple explanation.

Weary = tired, exhausted

Wary = unsure, cautious

So, saying “I was weary of attending the party” is correct only if you’re tired of attending the party, but not if you’re having second thoughts or hesitation about attending the party.

One way you could remember the correct one is that wary rhymes with scary, and you’re probably going to be wary of a scary situation.

Finding the difference between these words is also made easier if you say them aloud. I’m not familiar with all the different permutations of accents, but I’m fairly certain that they do sound different at least most of the time.

 

Posted in Spelling & Grammar.

Why saying “I could care less” is wrong

I’ll be honest – this one gets up my nose a bit every time I hear/read it. You’ve probably heard people say they “couldn’t care less” about something, but you’ve probably also heard them say they “could care less” about something. So which one is right?

The correct way to say it is “I couldn’t care less.”

Saying you could care less implies you have a little bit of caring left in you. Saying you couldn’t care less means you’ve hit the bottom – there is absolutely no more room for you to care about the situation in question.

A good way to remember it is to use different word in place of “care.” Think of saying, “I could drive less” or “I could work less.” In these examples, there is still some driving or working to do before the speaker is done. If I said, “I couldn’t work less,” that implies it’s impossible for me to do any less work.

I hope that clears up the difference between “could care less” and “couldn’t care less”!

 

Posted in Spelling & GrammarLanguage.

 

The difference between “you and I” and “you and me”

If you’re like me, you grew up hearing your parents say something like, “It’s ‘Mark and I’, dear.”

Well I’m here to tell you that even in adulthood, it still feels good to learn that your parents don’t know everything.

The proper usage of “you and I”

Your parents weren’t entirely wrong. Using “and I” is still correct – just not all of the time. For an easy way to tell which usage is correct, simply remove the other subject from the sentence. For example:

Mark and I went to the store.

becomes

I went to the store.

In this example, the sentence still makes sense. Using “and I” here is correct.

Here’s another example.

The store was too expensive for Mark and I.

becomes

The store was too expensive for I.

Yikes. Sounds ridiculous, right?

In this case, using “and me” is correct. Then, the sentence with the other subject removed would be: The store was too expensive for me. This sounds nice and normal.

So, there you go! It’s easy to tell when to use “and I” and when to use “and me.” The trick, of course, is convincing your parents.

 

Posted in Spelling & GrammarLanguage.

Anyway/any way and everyday/every day

The four words “anyway,” “any way,” “everyday” and “every day” illustrate for me just how precise and seemingly random the English language can be. It’s not always easy to tell which usage is correct. Specifically, getting “everyday” and “every day” mixed up is so common, I bet many people don’t even realize they mean two entirely different things.

So, how can you tell which one to use?

When to use anyway and when to use any way

The word “anyway” has a few meanings. They are: to redirect a conversation, to show that something is bound to happen, or to confirm something that’s previously been said. Here are examples of each.

  • “So, anyway, what do you want for lunch?”
  • “If I make a turkey sandwich, you’re just going to ask for ham anyway.”
  • “Lunch will be turkey anyway; I don’t know why you’re asking.”

By contrast, “any way” has one very specific meaning: one or many methods of reaching a certain goal.

“Is there any way we could have lunch earlier?”

When to use everyday and when to use every day

As I mentioned earlier, mixing up these two is very common; probably more common than the anyway/any way mixup. But fear not – it’s easy to remember the difference between “everyday” and “every day.”

The adjective “everyday” refers to things that are routine, that are faced daily. For example, if you take the same bus to work daily, that’s your everyday route. It can also refer to things that are commonplace – “This isn’t my everyday pair of shoes.”

The adverb “every day” means, specifically, each day.

So, to say, “I eat cereal every day” is correct, because you’re explaining that you eat cereal each day – whereas “I eat cereal everyday” is incorrect. However, saying, “This is my everyday cereal” is the correct usage of “everyday.”

Posted in Spelling & Grammar, Language.

“Should/could have” vs “should/could of”

One thing that fascinates me, though the result often frustrates me, is how many of our spelling errors arise from the spoken word. The phrases “should of” and “could of” are perfect examples of this.

Why “should of” and “could of” are incorrect

“Should of” and “could of”, if you break them out into their two separate words, don’t actually make any sense together. You can say “a pint of beer” or “three hours of sleep”, but “should of studied” doesn’t fit.

In this case, people say “should of” and “could of” because of the contraction that’s created from the word “have.” Really, it’s “should’ve” and “could’ve” – in other words, “should have” and “could have.” This contraction sounds very similar to “of” when spoken aloud, but “of” in this case is meaningless and incorrect.

Hope that helps!

 

Posted in Spelling & GrammarLanguage.

“Conscious” vs “conscience”

This is a spelling misunderstanding I’ve been seeing around the internet quite often lately. These two words sound similar, but they’re different.

Here’s the difference between “conscious” and “conscience”

  • Conscious means to be awake, to be aware, or to have knowledge of something.
  • Conscience is the little voice inside you that tells you stealing your best friend’s car and driving it into a lake is wrong.

So, this means the following phrases are incorrect:

  • Socially conscience
  • Unconscience
  • Listen to your conscious

How to tell the difference between “conscious” and “conscience”

Because these words sound so similar, it’s easy to get them confused. However, the key to telling them apart is in the second ‘n’ in conscience. Say it aloud if you need to (if you’re in public, you can say it under your breath – it’s okay!). If you need to talk about how to tell the difference between right and wrong, watch for that second ‘n.’ Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with an easy mnemonic device for this one, but after a while it should become second nature!

Posted in Spelling & Grammar.

What phrases really bug you?

I know that the English language is ever evolving (though I try in my own way to keep it from evolving into incoherency), but there are some popular phrases that just make my skin crawl. I hereby vow to never use these in any form, written or spoken:

  • Across the pond
  • Pout – to describe lips in general, not an actual pout
  • Wow factor
  • Culture vulture

Here are words and phrases that bug me because they’re actually incorrect:

  • All intensive purposes (should be “intents and purposes”)
  • “Incidences” to mean “incidents” (“incidence” is actually a technical word which is not pluralized)
  • “Awe” as an alternate spelling of “aw” (I mean, it’s an entirely different word!).
  • “Comprised of”, but I’ve talked about that one before.
  • “Should of”, “would of”, etc.
  • “Penultimate” to mean “the most ultimate” (it actually means “next to last” – very far from the way it’s commonly used, which is a shame because it’s a great word).
  • “Reoccuring”

Posted in Language.

“Won’t” vs “wont”

I recently noticed that someone had arrived at my site through a Google search for “grammar of ‘i am won’t.’” It took me a minute or two to understand that the question really was about the word wont. So, in case you ever come back this way, Mystery Googler, here is your answer:

What is the difference between wont and won’t?

The word wont talks about someone in the habit of doing something, or of a characteristic of something. To use it in a couple of sentences:

“Samantha was wont to think about spelling too much.”
“Tomorrow will be quiet, as Sundays are wont to be.”

The word won’t, as I bet you already know, is a contraction meaning will not.

So, this one’s easy. It’s really a spelling thing, since speaking the two words aloud will tell you right away if you’re saying the wrong one – and if you’re saying wont, people might mishear you and think you’re saying want, depending on your accent. This adds a bit more excitement to life! Actually, the pronunciation might help you determine which one you want to write out. Wont sounds like want, and you wouldn’t spell want with an apostrophe, like won’t!

Oh wow. Was I getting carried away there or what? Sorry, spelling tends to do that to me.

Can you use “which” to signify an afterthought?

I’m reading a certain novel right now. It’s good, but it uses the word “which” in a way that really bugs me. This spelling and grammar pet peeve has been a fairly recent, but intense, one of mine for the past couple of years.

Dear editor of said novel: The word “which” is not a synonym for “and,” “anyway” or even a period. Here is an example from the book:

“And if you tell him you saw me smoking, I will banish you to the lowest circle of hell. Which I’ve never been there, but . . .”

Now I’m not going to get all academic on you here (I couldn’t even if I wanted to, anyway), but “which” is a pronoun. That means it refers directly to something that’s been mentioned in a conversation, or refers to the people having the conversation.

The character in the example I used should say either, ” . . . the lowest circle of hell, which I’ve never been to, but . . .” or drop it altogether. If he says which in the way I just suggested, he’s referring directly to the lowest circle of hell. In the way that appears the book, he’s using it to refer to, “I’ve never been there,” which makes no sense at all. He means to use which to indicate an afterthought, in which case an, “Of course,” at the beginning of the thought would suffice. Actually, in this example, dropping it altogether would make the most sense.

I know the example I used is from a character speaking, but that doesn’t stop it from hitting my brain all wrong. Using which to signify an afterthought or make a new point isn’t a regionalism as far as I know, so it doesn’t get a pass from me. No sir!

I hope the above made sense. The thing with me is I usually feel it when a word is used wrong or a sentence is composed badly, but I can’t often put it into words. A loud clanging bell goes off somewhere in my torso. I think it’s my mutant superpower.

Posted in Spelling & Grammar, Language.