Last November, we introduced some commonly confused English words, but there are plenty more to explore. (These tips are supposed to be bite-sized, y'know.)
The truth is, we could devote entire volumes of eTips to common usage hiccups. The English language is too immense, too idiosyncratic, and too inconstant not to create some contusion. That is, confusion.
Here’s a refresher on another handful of word pairs that give writers and spell checkers fits.
Advice is a noun that means “recommendation or information”; advise is a verb meaning “to counsel or recommend.” When you advise a colleague, you give advice.
What sort of advice would you give someone new to your company?
She advised me to update my Google calendar to keep track of meetings.
Use among to refer to people or things that are undefined or viewed as a group; use between when referring to a choice involving distinct people or things.
Personal-leave days are listed among the benefits offered by this company.
Communication between workers and management is candid.
Between is usually used when you are referring to only two people or things, and among is usually used with groups of more than two persons or things. However, the Chicago Manual of Style notes that between is “perfectly appropriate for more than two objects if multiple one-on-one relationships are understood from the context.”
Negotiations between the buyer, seller, and agent are progressing well.
Complement means “to complete or go well with.” Compliment means “to give praise.” Both words can also be used as nouns. The adjective complementary means “serving to fill out or complete.” Complimentary means “given free as a favor.”
Your experience working in public relations will complement your overall resume.
My manager complimented my composure in dealing with an unruly customer.
Explicit means “expressed directly or clearly defined”; implicit means “implied or unstated.” Remember that explicit is like explain, and implicit is like imply.
The directions were explicit and easy for us to follow.
The implicit message sent by the supervisor's glare was unmistakable.
Irregardless is the substandard form of regardless. This incorrect form is probably a combination of irrespective and regardless, both of which are real words. Irregardless is not.
Incorrect: Irregardless of the weather, we will meet at the clubhouse.
Correct: Regardless of the weather, we will meet at the clubhouse.
Spotting misused words is much more difficult in the context of a full document than when the words are isolated. Careful proofreading will help. Reread your work slowly and out loud. Try to concentrate on each individual word. This can feel like tedious work, since we naturally predict, skip, and jump ahead when we read. The payoff is correct writing.