Commonly Misspelled and Misused Words: Writing Review Study Guide

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Commonly Misspelled and Misused Words: Writing Review Practice Exercises.

The English language can be tricky. Many words sound the same but have completely different meanings. In some cases, you have to change only a single letter of a word to make it mean something entirely new. How confusing is that? Here is a list of some commonly misused, misspelled, or confused words.

Confused Words and Phrases

a lot (noun): many or much
allot (verb): to give or share

Alot is not a word.

accept (verb): to recognize or allow
except (preposition): excluding
Fuel For Thought

A preposition is a word that tells the relationship between nouns in a sentence (for example, The cat sat under the table).

access (noun, verb): means of approaching; to approach
excess (noun, adj.): extra

addition (noun): an increase
edition (noun): an issue of a book or newspaper

affect (verb): to influence or change
effect (noun): a result
effect (verb): to bring about

all ready (adj.): completely prepared
already (adv.): by or before a specified or implied time

all together (adj.): in a group; in unison
altogether (adv.): completely or thoroughly

allude (verb): to refer to something not specifically mentioned
elude (verb): to escape notice or detection

ascent (noun): the act of climbing or rising
assent (verb): to agree or accept a proposal or opinion

assure (verb): to reinforce an idea; to comfort someone
ensure (verb): to make certain that something happens
insure (verb): to secure from harm; to secure life or property in case of loss

beside (adj.): next to
besides (adv.): in addition to

bibliography (noun): a list of publications used as reference
biography (noun): a life story

capital (noun): money invested; a town or city where the government is located
capitol (noun): a government building

choose (verb): to select
chose (verb): the past tense of choose

cite (verb): to acknowledge; to quote as a reference
sight (noun): the ability to see; vision
site (noun): a place or location

complement (noun, verb): a match for something; to enhance or go well with something
compliment (noun, verb): praise; to give praise

consul (noun): an official appointed by the government to live in a foreign country and attend to the interests of the official's home country
council (noun): a group of people called together to provide advice or govern
counsel (noun, verb): advice; to give advice

continual (adj.): taking place in close succession
continuous (adj.): without a break or letting up

cooperation (noun): assistance, help
corporation (noun): type of business organization


The expression is I couldn't care less, not I could care less. Many people say it wrong. Listen to see if you can hear when people use it incorrectly.

decent (adj.): well mannered
descent (noun): decline, fall
dissent (noun): disagreement

desert (noun, verb): arid, sandy region; to abandon or withdraw from
dessert (noun): a sweet food served at the end of a meal

disburse (verb): to pay
disperse (verb): to spread out

disinterested (adj.): no strong opinion either way; objective, neutral
uninterested (adj.): don't care; bored

elicit (verb): to stir up; to call for (responses)
illicit (adj.): illegal

envelop (verb): to surround; to cover completely
envelope (noun): a flat paper container for letters or other documents

farther (adv.): beyond
further (adj.): additional

Inside Track

Use farther when referring to actual distance and further when referring to nonmeasurable subjects: I have farther to walk and further to discuss.


forth (adv.): forward, onward
fourth (adj.): next number after third


hear (verb): to perceive by the ear
here (adv.): in or at this place

hoard (verb): to collect and keep
horde (noun): a huge crowd

imply (verb): to hint or suggest (to someone)
infer (verb): to assume or deduce (from someone)

loose (adj.): not restrained, not fastened
lose (verb): to fail to win; to be deprived of

loath (adj.): reluctant
loathe (verb): to feel hatred for

medal (noun): a badge of honor
meddle (verb): to interfere
metal (noun): a mineral substance

passed (verb): the past tense of to pass
past (adj.): finished; gone by

personal (adj.): individual
personnel (noun): employees

principal (adj.): main
principal (noun): person in charge; a sum of money earning interest
principle (noun): a rule to live by

quiet (adj.): still, calm
quit (verb): to stop; to discontinue
quite (adv.): very, fairly, positively

stationary (adj.): not moving
stationery (noun): writing paper

Inside Track

When trying to distinguish between stationary and stationery, think of E for envelope (what stationery goes in) and A for stand still (what you do when you're stationary).

taught (verb): the past tense of to teach
taut (adj.): tight

than (conj., prep.): in contrast to
then (adv.): next

their (pronoun): belonging to them
there (adv.): in a place
they're: contraction for they are

to (prep.): in the direction of
too (adv.): also; excessively
two (adj.): the number after one

weather (noun, verb): atmospheric conditions; to last or ride out
whether (conj.): if it be the case; in either case

who (pronoun): substitute for he, she, or they
whom (pronoun): substitute for him, her, or them

your (pronoun): belonging to you
you're: contraction for you are

Fuel For Thought

Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. They both mean capable of being burned quickly.

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