This is the 9th and final installment in my ongoing series of words and/or terms that 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.
As I said, this is final one in this series. The words and terms are presented in alphabetical order (a to z). Please see previous blog posts for: Sept. and Oct. 2011; Jan., Mar., May, Sept. 2012; Jan., Jul. 2013; for the first eight.
Expressions such as “more unique” and “most unique” are redundant.
Something is either unique, or it isn’t.
These two words are sometimes mixed up.
Ultimately means “the furthest possible extent”.
Eventually means “at an unspecified time in the future”.
He knew that ultimately he would face death.
He knew that eventually he would break the record.
Do not use this noun to mean “the employment of” something.
The use [not usage] of laptops has dramatically increased.
wait for, wait on
“Wait for” means “to be in readiness for”.
“Wait on” means “to serve”.
We’re waiting for [not waiting on] the last train.
John spent the summer “waiting on” customers at the diner.
“Ways” is a non-standard colloquialism meaning distance.
The camp is a long way [not ways] from the cottage.
There are many “ways” to deal with that situation.
“Weather” is a noun referring to the state of the atmosphere.
“Whether” is a conjunction that refers to “a choice” of options.
“Whether” we go or not, will depend entirely on the “weather”.
Do not use “where” in place of “that”.
I read that [not where] the polar ice is melting.
“While” usually refers to a “passage of time”.
Do not use while to mean “although” or “whereas”.
Although [not while] John decided to stay, Pat went on to the club.
He marked exams “while” I read my novel.
who, which, that
Do not use “which” to refer to people. Use “who” instead.
“That” normally refers to things; but it may also refer to a group or class of things.
How could a young boy who [not which or that] stuttered, sing?
The team that [not which] wins the most games gets the trophy.
Of the two chairs, which one do you prefer?
would of, would have
“Would of” is non-standard for “would have”.
He would have [not would of] been on time if he had hurried.
“Your” is a possessive adjective. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are”.
If “you’re” on the list you can take “your” own vehicle.
Occasionally, 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 examples, go to my main writing help website at:
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