Monday, March 2, 2015

Mixed-up Words by Annette M. Irby

mixed apple slices*

Have you ever seen this? There you are scrolling through FB and what happens? Someone comments: “Your welcome.” Cringe! 

Or “Look at this cute puppy! Awe!” Eeks!

Same sort of cringing happens to me when I’m editing/reading a book and find this type of thing: “Hand me that make up brush, would you?” Or, perhaps “Let’s take the pick-up.” Oh, no, no, no. (grin)

So, let’s see if we can answer some questions about tricky words, shall we?

First, I know you know the correct usage of your and you’re, so we won’t start there. But sometimes I wonder, given the number of times I see “awe” where an interjection belongs, if folks know the difference between awe and the interjection, aw.

Here are some incorrect and correct uses of commonly misused words:

INCORRECT: Awe, your baby is so cute!
CORRECT: Aw, your baby is so cute!
"Awe" is a noun and means overwhelming reverence. ("Awesome" comes from this word.)
"Aw" is an interjection used to express sentiment or opinion.

The rest of these mostly speak for themselves:

INCORRECT: Let’s take the pick up.
CORRECT: Let’s take the pickup.
ALSO CORRECT: Please pick up the toys.

INCORRECT: Could you hand me that make up brush?
CORRECT: Could you hand me that makeup brush?
ALSO CORRECT: She started wearing makeup at age thirteen.
ALSO CORRECT: I’ll need you to take a make-up test.  
ALSO CORRECT: That’s just part of his makeup.

INCORRECT: Could you hang onto this for me?
CORRECT: Could you hang on to this for me?
“Hang on” is its own phrase.
“Onto” is a preposition.

INCORRECT: Don’t give into the fear.
CORRECT: Don’t give in to the fear.
(same reasoning as above)

INCORRECT: Climb in to the wagon.
CORRECT: Climb into the wagon. ("Into" used as a preposition)

TIP: When deciding how to write a word or phrase, consider how it’s being used. And if there's ever a question (as in when grammar experts cannot agree), aim for clarity. Most often, your publisher's style guide will dictate final say.

For more grammar fun, let’s peek at some potentially mixed-up words, shall we? Many of these are homonyms. Test yourself. How many can you define?

Rifle and riffle.  

Distain and disdain.

Hoards and hordes.

Flyer and flier.

Repelling and rappelling.

Whale (to strike) and wail (to cry). (gave you than one :)

Illude, allude, and elude.

Illusive, allusive, and elusive.

Illusion, allusion, and elusion.

Burrow and borough.

Precedence and precedents.

Immerge and emerge. 

Hardy and hearty.

Complimentary and complementary.

I keep a list of these and add to it as I find more. It helps to include the definitions. What are your grammar pet peeves when reading? Have you found any misplaced homonyms?

Write on, friends!


Her Nerdy Cowboy

Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle? Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. 

Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children, and who reads to her of pirate romance. Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?
You can "buy" this $0.99 title for FREE this Lenten season by ordering from Pelican Book Group's site

Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has three published books and 
runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing
See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.

*digital photo credit: "mixed apple" by zirconicusso


  1. Thank you! This stuff drives me crazy. I'm not the kind of person that corrects grammar on public posts, but sometimes I am tempted.

    There are those who say comments and texts are exempt from grammar rules (and replies that said the same in much coarser language). But we're judged by everything we write just as we're judged by our appearances. This is doubly true for writers.

    Okay (not "ok"), I'm stepping down from my soap box now.

    1. And triply true of editors. ;) You're right, it's not safe to correct grammar on public posts. People don't respond well. ;) And to be honest, I don't always stress about grammar in texts, though I do sometimes cringe. :) Hugs, Angie!

  2. Great list, Annette! I'm saving this. And, yes, I know the difference between "you're" and "your." I just wish someone would educate my fingers!

    1. I understand! I've caught myself typing homonyms so many times, Sandra. :) Hugs!

  3. Great listing of 'tricky' words... I also love the idea of keeping a running list.

    Two more to add to your list (these really bug me when I find them used incorrectly in a book):

    Insure / Ensure
    Affect / Effect

    1. Thanks, Jessica. Due to word count, I didn't include an exhaustive list. These are two good ones. Write on!

  4. Great list, Annette. I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best grammar gal so I love all these tips.

  5. Awesome post, Annette. As a teacher I had to threaten the students LOL about their-there-they're. Sheesh. Also alright and all right. But outside of the classroom, I have seen "grizzly" murder in a newspaper. And nope. Not death by a bear. The writer meant "grisly." Yowzers. Good one today. xo

    1. Ah, yes, threats. ;) Grisly/grizzly--what a great addition to the list. Happy writing, Tanya!


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!