Commonly Confused Words – Accept vs Except

by Raven

So, we’ve all been in the position when we were in the writing groove. You know, that brief moment when your fingers dance powerfully over the keys and the thoughts look just as good on the screen as they did in your brain? Then, all of a sudden, your fingers still like twittering birds do the moment before the first clap of thunder hits. However, it wasn’t mother nature that has caused your lack of finger jitterbugging; it turns out that you’ve hit a word that has stumped you. Not just any word; you’ve hit the word “accept.” Which one do you use? Accept? Except? As you grapple with the earth-shattering problem, the moment of blissful confidence fades away, and the flow dissolves like those zero-calorie water bottle Kool-aid pouches.

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Ok, so it may not be as dramatic as I see it, but confusing a word can throw you off your game. If you are aware of the confusion, it can distract you from the true goal of your assignment: getting your ideas across to your audience. If you don’t realize the confusion and you use the wrong word, then it can cloud your ideas and disorient your readers. There is a way we can avoid this though.

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First, let’s examine what each of these words mean.

Accept is a noun that, according to dictionary.com, means “To take or receive… to give an affirmative reply to… to take on the responsibilities, duties, etc… To receive with approval or admit… To tolerate or accommodate oneself to.” The word except (as a preposition) is defined as “with the exclusion of.” Except as a verb means “to object” (dictionary.com).

Now that we understand the basic definitions of those words, it will be a bit easier to see the confusion they can cause when they are mixed up. Examine the following sentence:

I got everything on the grocery list accept milk.

If you hadn’t noticed already, I used the wrong word. Even though these words sound the same and, more than likely, your reader will understand what you’re trying to say, there is still room for misinterpretation, which is something you want to avoid in your writing.

Grammatically, this sentence says that the person got everything on the list and they received/approved of the milk. However, syntactically, that doesn’t make any sense.

Looking at the organization of the sentence, we can make out that the author meant that they got everything on the list but the milk. Sure, this doesn’t seem like a huge mistake, but the time it takes for the reader to determine what the sentence is supposed to mean takes their focus away from the purpose of the sentence.

So now you’re wondering how to avoid these tiny mistakes. Never fear; there a few useful tips that you should keep in mind and utilize at every opportunity.

Proofread

If it is just a typo, you can catch it at the editing stage of your writing process. Don’t rely on your word processor’s spell check or grammar check. It more often than not will miss those errors, or cause more errors than you originally had. The best way to catch the greatest number of mistakes is to read through your writings. Reading out loud or using free screen readers will help you to catch mistakes.

Pneumonic Devices

If you struggle with understanding the differences between accept and except, then a pneumonic device can be helpful. One helpful device is to use the first letters of each word to associate them with other words with similar meanings. For example: Accept and agree, and except and exclude.

Another useful device is to come up with rhymes to help you remember what each word means and how it should be used. For example:

I will accept this sweet lemonade because everyone except me spent the day in the shade.

Yes, it’s cheesy, but it could help the difference between the words stick in your memory.

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As long as you stay vigilant, you can avoid a majority of commonly confused word errors. The above tips can work for other errors as well. For more information on commonly confused words, see the Learning Hub’s Handy-Dandy handout.

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Commonly Confused Words – Then vs Than

by Kaylan

Circle with a horizontal line through the middle. At the top it says "then" equal sign and a basic drawing of a clock. At the bottom it says "then" equal sign and then a drawing of an apple, "vs" and a drawing of an orange.

If you commonly mistake “then” for “than” or vice versa, you are not alone.  There are many people who make this common mistake but there are a lot of helpful tips out there to help you alleviate the stress of deciding between one measly letter.  You may be asking if one measly letter really does make a difference in the point you are trying to make in your sentence.  The answer to that question is a firm “yes.”  Not only is it distracting to read a paper that commonly confuses these two very similar sounding words, but it is also very easy to learn how to distinguish when to use each word.  This graphic is a pretty simplistic breakdown of the usage of the two words:

Then vs. Than infographic: Left side has a plate of eggs and bacon, "then" and a person staring at a computer screen, and below that it says "Then indicates time, as in a chronological sequence, e.g., "I ate breakfast and then I went to work." On the right it has an image of an orange, "than," and an image of an apple, and beneath that it says "Than signifies comparison, as in something preferred to something else, e.g., "I'd rather eat oranges than apples."

In general, when you are talking about a sequence of events, then will be used.  For example:

“I have class at noon and then I have work.”

Here we can see that “then” represents a movement of events from one to another.

On the other hand, “than” is used to indicate preference when two items are placed against each other. For example:

“I am more of a winter person than a summer person.”

Here we can see that a choice is being made of one option over another and therefore we indicate this preferential choice with “than.”

There are great articles and helpful tips that go in-depth explaining the difference between these two commonly confused words.  This article provides a nice thorough look into the difference between the two words and when to use each word in a sentence:

Writing Explained

I wish you all the best of luck in correcting this error if you are making it. If you were not aware that this was an issue prior to reading this entry, then I hope this will stick with you. In any case, please stay tuned for more entries on commonly confused words in our April web series!

Commonly Confused Words – Capitol vs Capital

by Brock

Black background, graphic eagle holding several arrows, and text reading "This is a special message from The Capitol" with a credit at the bottom left to Funny or Die

The Capitol of Panem in the Hunger Games universe raises an important question: Is the capital of Panem The Capitol?  Does the capital have a capitol or is all of the capital The Capitol itself?

To answer this, let’s get to the bottom of what the differences between capitol and capital.

While the word capitol rather explicitly refers to the building where legislative business and political shenanigans occur, capital refers to a variety of things.

Capital can refer to:

  • Seat or city of government (Washington D.C.; Springfield, IL; Boise, ID.; etc.)
  • A sum of money (Ask Karl Marx about his feelings on this one)
  • A letter used at the beginning of sentences and proper nouns
  • Morally questionable punishment used for severe crimes

Capitol refers to:

  • Buildings

These words are only separated by one single letter, so think of a way to use that to your advantage and create a saying based on that letter.  For capitol: “Oh wow, look at the beautiful domed building!” For capital: “Capital has A lot of different meanings.”

So, back to The Hunger Games. Now that we know the difference, we see that Panem has a capital city and its name is simply “The Capitol.”  We know this because if you look at The Capitol’s wikia page, Capitol is distinguished as a pronoun with a capital “C.”

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So there you have it. Hopefully that will help you distinguish between these two tricky words and use them properly in your writing in the future! Here are some other resources that explain the differences as well that you might find useful:

Good luck as you work on managing the differences in these commonly confused words! Stay tuned for more resources throughout the month of April on other commonly confused word pairs and combos!

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Commonly Confused Words – Desert vs Dessert

by Sidney

One Won’t Find a lot of Desserts in the Desert!

One is a place characterized by sand and cacti and scorpions; the other the sweetest and final course in a meal. Still, often these two are confused because, though they have little in common, they are spelled quite similarly.

Image of Desert

Desert (n)

a geographical location with a harsh climate characterized by little rain and high temperatures. Or…

Image of Kitten with text: Come back! Don't leave me like this!

Desert (v)

to leave or abandon

Image of a delicious piece of chocolate cake

Dessert (n)

a sweet and not terribly nutritious food often containing sugar

Tip:

Dessert is something you want more of so it has two ss’.

A desert, on the other hand, has very little water and really nothing in the way of desserts. It has one s.

Cartoon of two men on a tiny island covered in desserts. One man says "Lucky for us, the cartoonist is a lousy speller."

Resources:

Good luck as you work on managing the differences in these commonly confused words! Stay tuned for more resources throughout the month of April on other commonly confused word pairs and combos!

 

Commonly Confused Words – Regard vs Regards

by Nick

Greetings, everyone!  Welcome to another entry of The Learning Hub’s April web series.  Our web series this month, if you have not heard already, is focusing on correcting commonly confused words that, after making the distinction between these words, will help you in “cleaning up” your writing.  Today, I would like to discuss two commonly confused words: regard and regards.

with-regard-to-versus-with-regards-to

Personally, I never made the distinction up until somewhat recently, and I somehow managed to get away with it in all of my classes, prior to me making that distinction.  I am not, however, solely basing this off of my own personal struggle; I still see this in students’ essays, on articles from respected news outlets across the web, and occasionally on social media sites.

While this is an error that is not made as often as other errors such as then and than, I would still argue that it is an important distinction to make, especially since it is an error that tends to go unnoticed by a lot of people, ranging from users on social media sites to writers on well-established news outlets.

Speechitating

One of the main reasons why people get these two words mixed up is because they both can be used in phrases that are used to introduce topics. These phrases are known as phrasal prepositions (aka compound prepositions), which simply means that they are a set of words that link and relate the object of a preposition (a noun or a pronoun) to the rest of the sentence.  They (regard and regards) are often used in phrases that are based on regarding or about.

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You might be asking, then, so what is the difference?  Well, here is what each one essentially means, accompanied by examples:

Regard

Regard means relation, and the phrase in regard to is simply an alternative way of saying in relation to, and it has several variations such as: with regard to and regarding.

Ex: In regard to the recent increase of students who have been coming to The Learning Hub for writing appointments, we’ve decided to hire another writing tutor.

Regards

Regards simply means best wishes, and is primarily used to conclude emails or letters; it is used to express friendliness in greetings.

Ex: Nick sends his regards.

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Hopefully, this alleviates the confusion between these two words.  If not, you can always contact The Learning Hub to set up an appointment.  Also, here are some useful links to some websites that can help:

I wish you all the best of luck in correcting this error if you are making it.  If you were not aware that this was an issue prior to reading this entry, then I hope this will stick with you.  In any case, please stay tuned for more entries on commonly confused words in our April web series!

Commonly Confused Words – Less vs Fewer and Much vs Many

by Sarah

April is here! We wouldn’t know it by the weather, but Spring has officially sprung. All the flowers wanting to bloom are going to be iced over and brutally murdered by Mother Nature, but hey, Spring. Yay.

via Giphy

This month we’re providing specific resources about some specific words that we see people often confuse – either homophones or homographs, these pairs and groups of words pose a significant challenge.

Today I wanted to talk about one of the most annoying confused words I see: less/fewer and much/many. I see and hear people mix these up ALL the time, from Facebook to student papers to conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. It’s time to end it, and once and for all set the record straight in the difference between the two.

First, “less” and “fewer” and “much” and “many” are all adverbs or adjectives (depending on what word they describe). That means that they provide added context to either a verb or a noun.

less fewer

The main reason why you would use one over the other in these word pairs is to indicate whether a particular noun is “countable” or not. Meaning, can you hold a specific number of that noun in your hand (hypothetically), or would it be impossible to provide a specific number in trying to quantify that noun?

To see these differences in action, let’s look at a couple of examples:

Because of the frigid, unrelenting winter, we have fewer flowers blooming in our garden this spring.

As you can see here, “fewer” connects to the noun “flowers” which is countable, meaning we could use a real number to indicate how many blooms there are in the garden.

Because of the frigid, unrelenting winter, we have less growth in our garden than usual this spring.

We also have “less” which connects to the noun “growth” which would not be countable using a real number but by an amount – we would quantify it by determining how much we would see in the garden.

The two words “fewer” and “many” are considered “countable,” while the two words “less” and “much” are considered uncountable. So, as adjectives and adverbs, we would use them in alliance to nouns or verbs that are, for “fewer” and “many,” quantifiable, and for “less” and “much,” designated by amount.

You need to ask yourself whether that noun/verb can be counted or not, and then choose the correct adjective/adverb to match it.

So instead of “fewer cold” or “less degrees Fahrenheit,” we would have “less cold” and “fewer degrees Fahrenheit.” Instead of “many snow” or “much snowflakes,” we would have “much snow” and “many snowflakes.” Make sense?

RhymesLess

The next time you go to Facebook or Twitter to complain about this awful weather, take these tips with you to ensure your aggravations are written correctly. We all deserve to make our grievances known with how crappy the outside is – we just need to be sure to use our words well in communicating our sentiments.

For more information about “fewer/less” and “many/much,” please see The Learning Hub’s handout on commonly confused words here. We also have a host of websites that walk you through these differences that you are welcome to visit for another perspective. See these links below:

Fewer vs. Less

Many vs. Much

Amount vs. Number

Good luck as you work on managing the differences in these commonly confused words! Stay tuned for more resources throughout the month of April on other commonly confused word pairs and combos!

Commonly Confused Words – Their, There, They’re

by Alec

Happy April everyone! Now that Spring is upon us, the writing staff at The Learning Hub thought it would be timely to consider ways to “clean up” your writing. Thus, this month we will be going through various commonly confused words to help tidy up your sentences and clarify your arguments. First up, we are going to discuss a set of words that I always had trouble with in my own writing growing up and have since grown to despise… they’re, their, and there. These words are known as homophones, meaning even though they are different words with distinct meanings, they all sound the same when pronounced. This is often what causes confusion in student writing and why these words can often be so tricky. We will see many homophones throughout April’s web series posts so keep your eyes peeled!

there-their-theyre.jpg

Let’s start with standard definitions of the three words and then we can focus on how to remember their differences.

THEY’RE is a contraction of “they” and “are,” and we know this because of the apostrophe.

Examples:          They’re (they are) going to the grocery store

I wanted to leave at 2:00 but they’re (they are) still getting ready

THEIR is the possessive form of the pronoun “they.” Although “they,” as a pronoun, is typically plural, it is becoming more accepted amongst grammarians to use it as a singular pronoun. Thus, “their” might reference either singular or plural subjects.

              Examples:          It is their house (their = plural)

They left their cell phone at the party (their = singular)

THERE is an adverb that refers to a specific location. It can also be used as a pronoun at the beginning of a sentence to introduce a clause.

              Examples:          They are there now (location)

There is a puppy in the window (clause introduction)

Next time you find yourself writing a sentence and you know that you need to use one of these words, use the following trick from dictionary.com to help remember when to use which word:

“Their has the word “heir” in it meaning that it belongs to someone or something

“There has the word “here” in it which indicates the location

“Theyre” has an apostrophe so we know that we must be able to read “they are” into the sentence

If you have any questions concerning these, or other, commonly confused words, please reference The Learning Hub’s handout here. If you still have questions about your own use of commonly confused words, please do not hesitate to contact The Learning Hub and set up an appointment.

There are numerous resources online. A few of which, in addition to The Learning Hub’s handouts, I used to compile this post:

Good luck as you work on managing the differences in these commonly confused words! Stay tuned for more resources throughout the month of April on other commonly confused word pairs and combos!