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!

 

 

Commonly Confused Words – Tutor Roundtable #1

For the month of April, we will be sharing resources about commonly confused words – homographs and homophones that we see students struggling to understand the differences between.

For the first post, we have a roundtable discussion with four of our writing tutors, Patrick, Sidney, Raven, and Nick (with a bonus Dana puppy) who share their thoughts about why these word pairs or groups can be so confusing, which ones they see students struggling to distinguish, and what they themselves have trouble with. Check it out below!

Check back throughout the month of April for specific posts related to particular word combos that you may need help understanding, and see our handout with some information about commonly confused words below!

What words do you struggle with? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Writing Madness Consolation Post #10 – Getting Started!

We’ve completed our Writing Madness event for the month of March, but we still have to tell you about the “winning” topic! Today we have some tips and tricks for how to get started on your writing assignments. Read on for more!

by Sarah

Well, you’ve done it again, UIS. Two years in a row you’ve selected one of the most intangible topics as the most frustrating writing issue. Getting started. I’ll admit, I’m not sure how I want to get started with this post, other than noting that I also find it frustrating at times (right now being a prime example).

When you’re handed an assignment that you need to complete by a specific deadline, it can be a very daunting prospect. Knowing you have to turn out 6 or 8 or 15 pages in a couple of weeks is a crazy thought, and if you don’t stop yourself from getting overwhelmed, it can be almost impossible to step back and try to plan out how you might attack that assignment. Even shorter assignments of only 2-3 pages can seem like a mountain to climb when you don’t know how to begin.

Interestingly, getting started effectively on writing assignments hinges very closely on our runner-up topic, time management. See that blog post from yesterday for tips and tricks on how to make sure you follow the schedule set forth for each project.

But when talking about getting start, specifically, we have three very specific tips for you to make sure you avoid the anxiety and stress that comes with each new project you’re asked to write.

Scrutinize that assignment sheet

Most writing assignments you’re asked to undertake will be presented to you in some sort of prompt or assignment sheet that provides guidelines and expectations for how your professor wants you to approach the project. It’s super duper important that you understand that prompt inside and out before you undertake any decision making with what you want to write about, research you need to conduct, and anything else related to your work.

When looking at a prompt, it’s good to check out any key details you need to know, which can include things like the following:

  • Due date
  • Word count or page length
  • Research requirements
  • Formatting requirements

It’s also important to know the purpose, topic, and scope the assignment requires. Sometimes it’s very specific and you don’t have a lot of choices to make, but other times it’s very open and you have to determine your focus for yourself.

Try to identify key words or important action verbs (like describe, analyze, synthesize, apply, or evaluate) that dictate the approach you need to take on the assignment. Annotate everything that helps you understand what you need to do, and rewrite it into your own words, so that the way forward becomes clearer and easier for you.

The Learning Hub has a handy handout on how to read prompts that you can find here. We highly, highly recommend having it in your back pocket to reference anytime your professors give you a new prompt.

Freewrite

Once you know what you need to do for a project, by scrutinizing your prompt, you should take time to explore your options for your topic. Rather than deciding right away, think about freewriting for a brief period of time to lay down on the page everything that you know, everything you don’t know, and anything that interests you that might be appropriate for the assignment. Don’t feel obligated to stay focused on one particular thing – take time to articulate anything that might fit the assignment expectations, so that you give yourself choices, written down on the page, to pursue.

After a general first freewrite, you can then decide on a more specific direction, and freewrite again with a focus on that new direction. Continue freewriting as many times as you’d like to help you narrow down a topic and make getting started a less stressful prospect.

When freewriting, it is important that you do not stop writing or typing during the entire duration you set for the task. If you don’t know what to write, simply keep writing “I don’t know what to write” over and over, or else write nonsense, like “blue baseball” to keep your pen moving or your fingers typing. Once your brain stops spinning its wheels and figures out the new direction to go in, take yourself there. If you do your freewrite on your computer and you can turn your monitor off or cover it with a piece of paper or something, it will free your brain up from getting stuck on typing mistakes and let your thoughts flow freely.

The Learning Hub has a handout on freewriting that you can find here. It helps you understand what freewriting is, how you can undertake it, and why it’s a useful prewriting tactic you should adopt as part of your writing process.

Come to The Learning Hub

Yeah, no joke. One of our biggest pieces of advice if you get stuck getting started is to ask for help. The Learning Hub’s writing tutors are happy to help you at any stage of the writing process, which includes the initial stages. We can go over a prompt with you, help you explore topic ideas, determine research questions, and maybe even begin outlining for a draft. One of the best things a person can do is learn when to ask for help, and The Hub is one of the most helpful places on campus!

Contact The Learning Hub here to make an appointment, and be prepared for us to put you to work getting started on your writing projects!

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Thank you to everyone who participated in our Writing Madness event this month. We hope you’ve found all of our advice helpful in combating all of the frustrating writing issues you’ve encountered, and that you take us up on some of them as you work toward beating your writer’s block!

Now go and get started!