We recently shared a post containing part 1 of a list of the problem words that writers tend to get wrong. This week we’re at it again with the second half of the list. Although the words you’ll find below are easy to take for granted, some of them are trickier than you might think. Even if you’re confident that you’re using them all correctly, you might just learn a thing or two by taking a quick read through the explanations and examples we’ve provided.
Alternate and Alternative
These words aren’t always interchangeable as nouns and adjectives.
Alternate means every other in a series.
Alternative means one of two or more possibilities.
As the other one of a series of two, an alternate may stand for a “substitute,” but an alternative, although used in a similar sense, connotes a choice between two or more different possibilities.
Example: As the flooded road left them no alternative, they took an alternate route.
Amount and Number
Amount refers to things in bulk:
Example: a large amount of goods
Number refers to individual items:
Example: a number of options.
Compare To and Compare With
Compare to asserts a likeness to something:
Example: Index funds are often compared to the indexes after which they are modeled.
Compare with analyzes similarities and differences:
Example: How do growth funds compare with value funds?
Different From and Different Than
Different from is used when a comparison is drawn directly between two persons or things:
Example: Objectives are different from goals.
Different than is used when the object of comparison is expressed by a full clause:
Example: My job is different than it used to be.
Due To, Because Of, and On Account Of
Due to modifies a noun:
Example: Her success is due to her hard work.
Because of and on account of modify verbs:
Example: Prices rose because of increased demand (… on account of increasing demand).
Fewer and Less
Fewer is used for things that can be counted (numbers).
Example: fewer people
Less is used for things that cannot be counted (qualities).
Example: less enthusiasm
If and Whether
If means in the event that:
Example: The office will close if it’s a holiday.
Whether implies alternative conditions or possibilities:
Example: The customer didn’t say whether the deal had been approved.
Imply and Infer
Imply means to suggest:
Example: A falling stock market implies trouble in the economy.
Infer means to assume or to deduce:
Example: We can infer from the falling stock market that the economy is weak.
Myriad and Myriad Of
As an adjective, myriad means innumerable.
Example: myriad solutions
However, it can also function as a noun, meaning a great number.
Example: a myriad of choices
Percent and Percentage
Percent is accompanied by a numeral:
Example: 20 percent
Percentage is used for all other cases:
Examples: the percentage of people; as a percentage of the total
Quote and Quotation
Quote is a verb:
Example: The article will quote the company’s president.
Quotation is a noun:
Example: Several quotations (not quotes) were cited from her speech.
Regardless Of and Irrespective Of
Regardless of and irrespective of can be used synonymously:
Examples: The market will fluctuate regardless of what happens overseas; The company posted solid profits irrespective of the volatility in the third quarter.
Note: Irregardless is not a word and should not be used in place of regardless or irrespective of.
So now you’ve seen all of the problem words that we’ve collected. What are we missing? Are there other examples that you can think of that either trip up you or other writers you know? Please let us know in the comments section below!