This is another in my ongoing series about common errors in everyday English. It’s another excerpt from my “list” of words and/or terms that I notice are commonly confused in everyday writing and
speaking. Some of these words/terms are used in informal speech as “colloquialisms” but should not be used in most types of formal writing.
This is the third installment. I will be adding to this list in alphabetical order in future posts to this blog.
(See blog posts for Sept. and Oct. 2011 for the first two).
Commonly Confused Words/Terms (No. 3)
This is non-standard. Use “could have”.
He could have been ill at the time.
A “council” is a decision-making body.
The noun “counsel” means “advice”. It can also mean “lawyer”.
The administrative council sought counsel from its legal counsel.
“Data” is a plural noun that means “facts” or “information”.
It is sometimes used as a singular noun (instead of datum).
The revised data agrees with what we expected.
different from, different than
“Different from” is normally used; although “different than”
can be used to avoid awkward phrasing.
Your approach to the game is different from mine.
Let me know if your plans are different than they were before.
[to avoid “from what” they were].
differ from, differ with
“Differ from” means “to be unlike”.
“Differ with” means “to disagree with”.
My answer differed from his. I differ with his approach.
“Disinterested” means “impartial” or “objective”.
Uninterested means “not interested”.
We sought the views of a disinterested party.
She seemed uninterested in what we had to say.
“Don’t” is a contraction for “do not”.
Doesn’t is a contraction for “does not”.
They are NOT interchangeable.
Don’t leave yet. She doesn’t want to go.
“Elicit” means “to draw out” or “to evoke”.
“Illicit” means “illegal” or “unlawful”.
We were not able to elicit any information from
him about his alleged illicit trading activities.
“Emigrate” means “to leave” one country or area for another.
“Immigrate”, the opposite, means to enter a country or area.
My ancestors emigrated from the British Isles.
Maria immigrated to this country to find work.
“Eminent” means “distinguished” or “respected”.
“Imminent” means “about to happen”.
We ran into an eminent historian at the banquet.
The demise of the long-struggling company is imminent.
Sometimes you can get away with these types of errors when speaking (i.e. people might assume they “misheard” you and/or will give you the benefit of the doubt), but if you make such mistakes when writing they are right there in “black and white” for everyone to see. This is an instant way to lose credibility and will immediately cast doubts on your overall capabilities.
For more writing help articles and practical written examples, go to my main writing help website at:
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