English is a beautiful language. But like all things, it can be equally frustrating, especially for those who don’t remember what was taught in elementary school grammar classes (With bills to pay and deadlines to meet, who has time for Wren & Martin, anyway?) However, if one aspires to be a credible writers, making common grammatical mistakes can be a major hindrance. It’s hard for a reader to take you seriously if you are waxing eloquent in disastrous English.
In particular, homonyms tend to be tricky. When two words sound the same, it can be hard to discern their accurate usage, especially when the time for application is limited. An easy way to prevent this is to study and keep in mind some of the most commonly confused words in the English dictionary. It helps you stay on top of grammar, and lets you focus your energy on the creative content rather than structural technicalities.
Related reading: Using ‘neither nor’ and ‘either or’: Going back to the basics
Advice vs. Advise: This one is simple enough. Advice is a noun. For example,
Michael gave Marilyn some very good advice.
Advise is a verb. For example,
Michael advised Marilyn to read Gaiman before Pratchett.
Among vs. Between: Among refers to a collection of multiple things, in which one is not given special emphasis. For example,
Michael found his book among the old papers in his attic.
Between is used when referring to the relationship of one thing to another or several other things. For example,
Michael spent the night switching between episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Madam Secretary.
Michael spent the night switching between episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and some other Netflix shows.
Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure: Assure is used to say that something will happen without failure, or that something is definitely true. For example,
Michael assured Marilyn that the package would arrive by Saturday.
Ensure is used to convey that steps have been taken to guarantee something. For example,
Michael ensured that the roof would not leak again by doing the work himself.
Insure is used to convey the act of taking out an insurance policy. For example,
The first thing Michael did after buying his new car was insure it.
Complement vs. Compliment: When using complement, one refers to a person or thing that completes its counterpart. For example,
Michael found that red wine perfectly complemented his favorite dish.
A compliment is simply a nice thing that a person says to another. For example,
Michael complimented Marilyn on her choice of literature.
Emigrate vs. Immigrate: Emigrate refers to the action of moving away from a city, state or country to live somewhere else. For example,
Michael’s parents emigrated from Italy 40 years ago.
Immigrate refers to the action of moving to a city, state or country from somewhere else. For example,
Michael’s parents immigrated to Canada 40 years ago.
It’s vs. Its: It’s a contraction of “it is”. For example,
Michael met Marilyn at the bookstore. “It’s been a long time.” He said.
It’s is a possessive pronoun used to denote a quality of belonging. For example,
Michael is a huge fan of the painting and its creator.