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Words not fit for print

April 23, 2011 - Brad Siddons
Many of us seem to confuse words that sound the same but have different spellings — and very different meanings. There are no more commonly confused words, I believe, than three found in this paragraph. English students, letter writers and sometimes reporters mix them up in their work. They're all guilty from time to time. Are you? The three to which I refer are there, their and they're. It's probably not necessary to define the three words here, since the errors are usually due to momentary brain freezes, but I'll do it anyway just to be safe.

There — at, in, or to that place or position: “I drove to town and stayed there for three hours.”

Their — associated with people or things previously mentioned: “The members of the team liked to talked about their toughest victories.”

They're — a contraction for “they are.”

Yeah, pretty simple. Just slow down and think before you write.

Here are a few more I've seen in print lately:

All set for publication in this newspaper was an item describing a “repelling class,” which might have been taught by an offensive person, except it wasn't. To repel means drive or force (an attack or attacker) back or away; be repulsive or distasteful to. Instead, the course taught the art of rappelling, defined as descending a rock face or other near-vertical surface by using a doubled rope coiled around the body and fixed at a higher point. Oops!

More mixed up words: Toward. Period. There is no such word as “towards.” That's all I have to say about that.

A lot vs. allot

A lot means, quite simply, many. It is often misused, or misspelled, as...

Allot: give or apportion (something) to someone as a share or task: “Allot seven Easter Eggs to each child.”

That reminds me, Happy Easter. And remember to teach those children the real reason for the season. Tell them the good news.


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