Many of you are writers, and words make up a fair share of your life. Words are important. The right one can make a passage sing. The wrong one can grab the reader by the throat and drag him out of your story. Today, I’m donning my editor cap for a quickie post on word usage snafus. Below you’ll find a list of the most frequent offenders, but there are others: cannon vs. canon, adverse vs. averse, complement vs. compliment, just to name a few. Let’s get started! ***


Persuade vs. Convince
Persuade is about action. You persuade someone to act, to do something.
Convince is confined to the mind. You convince someone of an argument, belief, or idea.
The politician convinced the group of the dangers of global warming and persuaded each attendee to sign the petition.
INTERESTING ASIDE: Persuade comes from the Latin word meaning to advise, convince from the Latin to conquer.

Farther vs. Further
refers to physical distance. The store was farther from his house than he thought.
Further reflects a matter of degree. The detective refused to look into the matter further.

Continual vs. Continuous
means that something lasts, but with a break or pause. She continually checked on the turkey in the oven.
Continuous refers to something that lasts but without pauses. It rained continuously all night long.

Mantle vs. Mantel
Mantle is that shelf above your fireplace.
Mantel is the cloak in your coat closet.

Affect vs. Effect
Affect (verb) means to influence. His tale of child abuse affected the audience deeply.
Effect (verb) means to cause. She plans to effect an across-the-board pay cut when she takes over.
Part of the confusion with affect and effect is they can also used as nouns. Affect is most often used to describe the psychological state: flattened affect. Whereas an effect is simply a result. The cumulative effect of the month-long shoreline clean-up was significant.

My personal weakness? Lay vs. Lie. I know lay means to place and lie to recline, but when writing past tense, I always have to stop and muddle over lay being the past tense of lie. I’d love to know who came up with that bit of English idiocy.
[To prove my point, in the initial version of this post, I actually reversed lay and lie. It was intended, I swear.  I was testing you. 😄]

What about you?
Any word confusion confessions out there?



*** If you can’t get enough of this grammar stuff, check out Carol Kilgore’s terrific Grammar Police Monday post from last week on Melissa Maygrove’s most excellent blog.