In standard English, there are many words that are often confused because of similar spellings or pronunciation. Here’s a list to help you with editing. Each time you see any of these words in your writing, check to see if you used the right one.
accept / except
- accept v. to receive; to approve of
- example: I will accept late work if you are absent due to illness.
- except prep. other than; but
- example: Everyone went to the game except Jordan because she wasn’t feeling well.
advice / advise
- advice n. a recommendation
- example: Brittney was known for giving out good advice about relationships.
- advise v. to give advice
- example: A career counselor can advise you on which classes to take.
affect / effect
- affect v. to influence
- example: The gloomy weather affected Zac’s mood.
- effect n. result; consequence
- example: Giving rewards for behavior had no effect on those who already did what was expected.
all ready / already
- all ready adj. all prepared
- example: We finished packing, so we we are all ready to leave.
- already adv. previously
- example: Steven stayed with Katie even though he had already eaten lunch.
(“alright” is not standard English)
- all right adj. satisfactory; adv. satisfactorily
- Luckily, Ronald was still all right after falling off his skateboard.
- Tony did all right on his math test.
altar / alter
- altar n. a table for a religious ceremony
- example: Albert and Ashley were married in front of a beautiful altar.
- alter v. to change
- example: Ben’s pants were too long so he had them altered.
all together / altogether
- all together adj. in the same place; adv. at the same time
- Jacob didn’t know which part his brother had taken until he put the model all together.
- Usually Alex, Dustin, and Nathan tap on their desks at different times, but when they wanted to vex the teacher they would tap all together.
- altogether adv. entirely; completely
- example: Erin was altogether relieved to find out that the test wasn’t today.
brake / break
- brake n. a device to stop a machine
- example: Brad used the brake on his car to slow down before reaching the stop sign.
- break v. to fracture; to shatter
- example: Desiree hated it when her pencil lead would break.
capital / capitol
- capital n. a city
- example: Sacramento is the capital of California.
- capitol n. building
- example: We took a field trip to visit the capitol in Austin.
choose / chose
- choose v. to select
- note: rhymes with “ooze”
- example: Will you choose the cake or the pie for dessert?
- chose v. selected (past tense of choose)
- note: rhymes with “owes”
- example: Byron chose to wear the green shirt instead of the blue one.
clothes / cloths
- clothes n. what you wear (shirts, shorts, etc.)
- example: In the morning, Matthew put on his clothes and went to eat breakfast.
- cloths n. pieces of fabric
- example: In the garage Shelby uses old cloths to wipe grease off her hands.
coarse / course
- coarse adj. rough; crude
- The surface of sandpaper is coarse, but silk is smooth.
- Coarse language is not allowed in the hallways.
- course n. path; route; unit of study
- The navigator plotted a course to safely get through the shallow water.
- Amy’s favorite course is always social studies.
complement / compliment
- complement n. something that completes; v. to complete or make perfect
- The house painter had a full complement of brushes, so he could use the right size and shape for any surface.
- Rachel’s earrings complement her blouse because her outfit would look too plain without them.
- compliment n. a remark that expresses praise; v. to praise
- Jill gave Joe a compliment, saying his shoes looked nice.
- The players compliment each other when they win a game.
consul / council / counsel
- consul n. a representative from a foreign government
- example: The president met with the German consul at the German consulate in New York.
- council n. a group of people who meet together
- example: The student council discussed a proposition to put up signs to name each hallway.
- counsel n. advice; v. to give advice
- Seek counsel from a doctor even if you think you know what is wrong.
- My dad counseled me about my decision.
councilor / counselor
- councilor n. member of a council
- example: The councilors from the Council on Environmental Quality work on nation wide environmental problems.
- counselor n. one who advises
- example: Tyler met with the counselor, so he could get help deciding what classes to take.
desert / dessert
- desert n. a dry, sandy region
- example: The Mojave is a beautiful desert in California.
- desert v. to abandon
- example: An true friend would never desert you when you need her.
- dessert n. the sweet, final course of a meal
- example: I chose strawberry shortcake because it’s my favorite dessert.
formally / formerly
- formally adv. with dignity; according to strict rules and procedures
- example: Lauren and Hunter dressed formally when going to the prom.
- formerly adv. previously; in the past
- example: Yvette was formerly a basketball player, but now she plays volleyball.
hear / here
- hear v. to receive sounds through the ears
- example: Melissa could hear David whispering.
- here adv. in this place
- example: We are all anxious for Josh to get here with the food.
its / it’s
- its possessive form of it. belonging to it
- example: The lawn had a brown spot in its center.
- it’s contraction of it is or it has
- I’m opening the package because it’s [it is] finally here.
- I was so excited because it’s [it has] been such a long time since I ordered the book.
lead / led / lead
- lead v. to go first; to be a leader
- Note: rhymes with “feed”
- example: The engine leads the rest of the train cars.
- led v. went first (past tense of lead)
- example: When the friends got lost, Conrad led the way home.
- lead n. a heavy metal; graphite in a pencil
- Note: rhymes with “red”
- Lead is not used as much as in the past because we now know it is a poisonous substance.
- Is #2 pencil lead the same in wood pencils and mechanical pencils?
loose / lose
- loose adj. not securely attached; not fitting tightly
- note: rhymes with “moose”
- example: The handlebars on on Cole’s bike were loose, so it was difficult to steer.
- lose v. to suffer loss
- note: rhymes with “ooze”
- Mariah did not want to lose the competition, so she tried her hardest.
passed / past
- passed v. went by (past tense of pass)
- Aaron greeted Lexi as he passed her in the hallway.
- past n. that which has gone by; prep. beyond; adj. ended
- The dodo bird became extinct in the recent past.
- Anna drove past the beltway to get to the countryside.
- Chris’s reputation was based on his past victories.
peace / piece
- peace n. quiet order and security
- example: We hope there will be lasting peace when the war is over.
- piece n. a part of something
- example: Cameron ate the last piece of pie.
plain / plane
- plain adj. simple, common; n. a flat area of land
- The taco was too plain, only meat and cheese, so Silvia added some hot sauce.
- Settlers decided to farm on the plains because they didn’t have to travel over hills to sell their crops.
- plane n. a woodworking tool; an airplane; a flat surface (math)
- In tech class, Tristan used a plane to smooth out the flat parts of his CO2-powered car.
- Sam always dreamed of piloting a plane some day.
- The intersection of two planes results in a straight line.
principal / principle
- principal n. the head of a school; adj. main or most important
- Mr. Dale worked with the principal to encourage students to turn work in on time.
- The principal reason students read is for enjoyment.
- principle n. a rule of conduct; a main fact or law
- Kevin’s principles kept him from copying answers off of Brett’s homework.
- One principle of science it that hypotheses should be testable.
quiet / quite
- quiet adj. without noise; low volume; still and peaceful
- example: Ms. Torres appreciated when the students were quiet while they worked.
- quite adv. wholly or entirely; to a great extent
- example: Summer in Houston is quite hot and humid.
shone / shown
- shone v. gleamed; glowed (past tense of shine)
- note: many people use the word shined instead
- example: The sun shone very brightly this afternoon.
- shown v. revealed (past participle of show)
- example: Mr. Rogers expected Justin to do well on the test because he had shown him how to do this kind of problem already.
stationary / stationery
- stationary adj. in a fixed position
- example: You can’t ride stationary to the store because it is just for exercise.
- stationery n. writing paper
- example: Barbara bought pink Hello Kitty stationery at Target.
than / then
- than conjunction used for comparisons
- Cody wants to go to school rather than stay home.
- Ben likes playing video games more than Ryan.
- A mansion is bigger than a shack.
- then adv. at that time
- example: We will finish the project, then we will go to the movies.
their / there / they’re
- their possessive form of they. belonging to them
- example: They were late because of their habit of socializing during the passing period.
- there adv. at or in that place
- example: Madison left her jacket over there.
- note: can also begin a sentence
- There is no other option.
- There is no other option.
- they’re contraction of they are.
- example: They’re hoping to finish soon.
threw / through
- threw v. tossed, pitched (past tense of throw)
- example: Abby threw the crumpled paper into the trash can.
- through prep. across, in one side and out the other side
- example: Lauren made it through the doorway before the bell rang, narrowly avoiding a tardy.
to / too / two
- to prep. in the direction of; toward
- David went to the office.
- note: also part of the infinitive part of a verb (to be, to see, to hold)
- Melinda had permission to go home.
- too adv. also; more than enough
- Mr. Heyer has lived in California, Oregon, and Texas, too.
- It is too late for Megan to call Amanda.
- two n. cardinal number between one and three; adj. one more than one
- Sarah took two of the slices of pizza at lunch.
- Kevin had two pens, so he was able to lend one to Chad.
waist / waste
- waist n. the middle part of the body
- example: Michelle had to get a change of clothes because her outfit did not cover her waist.
- waste n. unused material, trash; v. to get rid of
- Tyler took the yard waste to the compost heap.
- It is a waste of ink to color using a highlighter.
weak / week
- weak adj. not strong
- example: Nicole’s broken arm was too weak to carry all her books.
- week n. seven days
- example: Spring break is one week long.
weather / whether
- weather n. atmospheric conditions
- example: Samantha loved the warm weather because it meant she could go swimming.
- whether conj. if
- example: Stephen had to decide whether he would give away his extra note cards.
who’s / whose
- who’s contraction of who is or who has
- Who’s [who is] giving his or her speech next?
- Who’s [who has] eaten dinner already?
- whose possessive form of who. belonging to whom
- example: Arthur wondered whose paper he had found in the hallway.
your / you’re
- your possessive form of you. belonging to you
- example: Scott is passing back your quiz from yesterday.
- you’re contraction of you are
- example: Class will begin when you’re seated and quiet.