Examples of Common Mistakes Made When Using the English Language


There are many common mistakes everyday people make in regards to the English language. No one is immune to an error here or there. That is why FirstEditing.com is available to each and every writer of any genre out there. Professional proofreading services are a must if you need any help whatsoever! The fact is that the world is full of teachers, employers, and other authorities who may penalize you for your nonstandard use of the English language. Feel free to denounce these people if you wish. But if you need their good opinion to get ahead, you’d be wise to learn Standard English, and get yourself an editor.

I often suggest differing usages as appropriate, depending on the setting: spoken vs. written, informal vs. formal.

Slang is often highly appropriate, especially in dialogue. Most speakers and writers want to use language in a way that will impress others. Here are examples of common mistakes in the English language that I find fairly regularly.

Examples of Common Mistakes Made When Using the English Language

Most people first encounter “obtuse” in geometry class. It labels an angle of more than 90 degrees and less than 180. Imagine what sort of blunt arrowhead that kind of angle would make and you will understand why it also has a figurative meaning of “dull, stupid.” But people often mix the word up with “abstruse,” which means “difficult to understand.”

When you mean to criticize something for being needlessly complicated or baffling, the word you need is not “obtuse,” but “abstruse.”

Words like “towards,” “forwards,” “homewards,” and “afterwards” end with -wards. “Afterwords” are sometimes the explanatory essays at the ends of books, or speeches uttered at the end of plays or other works. They are made up of words.

Pairs of words that begin with the same sound are said to alliterate, like “wild and wooly.” Those who can’t read are illiterate.

Wealth brings affluence; sewage is effluence.

If you feel pulled in two directions about some issue, you’re ambivalent about it; but if you have no particular feelings about it, you’re indifferent.

When used to refer to different elements of or perspectives on a thing or idea, these words are closely related, but not interchangeable. It’s “in all respects,” not “in all aspects.” Similarly, one can say “in some respects,” but not “in some aspects.” One says “in this respect,” not “in this aspect.” One looks at all “aspects” of an issue, not at all “respects.”

Originally posted 9/27/2010 and happily updated 10/26/2017. Thanks for reading!

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