Effective writing involves not only having a good vocabulary but also knowing how to choose the right words to express the right ideas. There are many English words that are frequently confused and misused.
Fewer / Less
Fewer is used for items that can be counted; less is used for items that cannot be counted.
e.g. Fewer people came to the meeting today than yesterday.
e.g. We have less money to spend on this trip than we used to have.
Moral / Morale
Moral as a noun means a standard of behavior or teaching of a story; morale as a noun means a positive state of mind with reference to confidence.
e.g. Not to take advantage of the poor is a moral act (as an adjective).
e.g. The moral of the story is that dishonesty never pays off.
e.g. This victory has increased the morale of the soldiers.
Farther / Further
Father refers to greater distance; further means more or greater intensity.
e.g. Our new house is farther from the lake than from the river.
e.g. The demonstration only led to further racial tension.
Allow / Allow of
Allow: permit; allow of: leave room for.
e.g. The regulation does not allow you to do this.
e.g. The regulation is so clear and specific that it does not allow of any other interpretation.
Bereaved / Bereft
Bereaved: taken away by death; bereft: being taken away or deprived of.
e.g. He was bereaved of his parents when he was a child.
e.g. He was bereft of all his possessions when he went bankrupt.
Definite / Definitive
Definite: clear and unmistakable; definitive: final and unchangeable.
e.g. The path going forward is definite with its goals carefully outlined.
e.g. The proposal is definitive with no further amendment.
Negligent / Negligible
Negligent: careless; negligible: that may be disregarded, not very important.
e.g. That officer is always negligent of his duties; he has been warned by his supervisor on several occasions.
e.g. These details are negligible; you don’t need to include them in the report.
Spoiled / Spoilt
Spoiled: (past tense or past participle of spoil) lay waste, rob; spoilt: mar or ruin.
e.g. Your car accident spoiled my vacation: I had to cancel the trip and take care of you.
e.g. You are a spoilt child!
Aside / beside
Aside: to one side; beside: by the side of.
e.g. We turned aside from the main road to avoid the heavy traffic.
e.g. The mother put the toddler beside her.
Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau