Poly Syllabic


Simple Spelling Errors, Grammar Traps and Confusions
by Dr. Poly Syllabic

Below are the most common errors we see in text from all sources, especially in the hasty emails, on blogs, and in twitter feeds. Note that often it's a single vowel that changes the entire meaning of a word.

WRONG: That sweater really
compliments your hair color.
RIGHT: That sweater really
complements your hair color.
WHY: Compliment means "to appreciate (verbally)." Complement means "to enhance."

WRONG: The tickets to the show were
RIGHT: The tickets to the show were
WHY: Complementary means "in addition to." Complimentary means "without payment needed."

WRONG: I was just
laying around doing nothing.
RIGHT: I was just
lying around doing nothing.
WHY: Laying is what a hen does to an egg! Lying is from the root "to lie down". (It also means "not telling the truth.")

WRONG: There are no
acceptions to that rule.
RIGHT: There are no
exceptions to that rule.
WHY: Acceptions is simply incorrect spelling; there is no such word. Exceptions is properly spelled.

WRONG: You must
except what they are saying.
RIGHT: You must
accept what they are saying.
WHY: Except means "all but this one" and accept means "to admit or include."

affect of the storm will be significant.
effect of the storm will be significant.
WHY: Affect is a verb meaning the "action" of something. Effect means the "result or outcome."
Note one exception: in Psychology, "affect" is a noun that means one's emotional state.

The above mistakes are minor on their own, but if you make too many of them it creates a negative impression on your education, professionalism, and overall expertise.

Dr. Poly Syllabic

Editor’s Note: Are there other grammar or spelling issues that grind your gears? Send them to ruth2@revmag.com