Self-editing / Commonly Misused Words Checklist

Song of the day: “Lay Down Sally” – Eric Clapton (Unless someone was putting her on that bed, this use of lay is incorrect.)

This is the commonly misused words checklist that when editing. For example, I search for the word “your” and then verify all instances are used correctly. After that, I search for “you’re” and verify it is used correctly as well.

Commonly Misused Words

accept / except
  • accept – to take or receive
  • except – to exclude
affect / effect
  • affect – to influence (If you can substitute “influence”, use “affect”.)
  • effect – a result ( You can usually put “the” in front of effect and it will still make sense. “He kissed her for the effect.”)
allude / elude
  • allude – to refer
  • elude – to avoid
assure / ensure / insure
  • assure – with confidence
  • ensure – guarantee
  • insure – a policy
allusion / illusion
  • allusion – to make reference
  • illusion – to deceive
alternate / alternative
  • alternate – to take turns, a substitute
  • alternative – a choice
among / between
  • among – connection with more that two people/objects
  • between – connection with two people/objects
angry / mad
  • angry – to be upset
  • mad – to be crazy  (It has become acceptable to use mad in place of angry, but this is correct.)
assure / ensure/ insure
  • assure – reassure
  • ensure – guarantee
  • insure – a protection policy
bad / badly
  • bad – an adjective (I feel bad.)
  • badly – an adverb (He drives badly.)
break / brake
  • break – to destroy
  • brake –  a device
  • to brake – the act of stopping an object
by / buy / bye
  • by – near
  • buy – to purchase
  • bye – goodbye, a bye in sports
capital / capitol
  • capital – uppercase letters, a seat of government, the primary
  • capitol – a building
compliment / complement
  • compliment – praise
  • complement – pairs well with something
council / counsel
  • council – a group
  • counsel – to advise
  • discreet – discerning, cautious
  • discrete – separate, distinct
drag /dragged vs drug /drugged
  • drag – present tense
  • dragged – past tense of drag
  • drug – a chemical (Drug could be used as a past tense of drag but it is not advised. When done, it is generally considered part of a dialect.)
  • drugged – to have drugged someone
emigrate / immigrate
  • emigrate – to leave a country
  • immigrate – to come into a country
further / farther / father
  • further – a metaphorical distance
  • farther – a physical distance
  • father – a dad (This is a common typo or farther.)
its / it’s
  • its – possessive
  • it’s – a contraction for it is
lay / lie
  • lay – setting down an object
  • lie – you lie on an object
led / lead
  • lead (pronounced leed) – the present tense
  • led (pronounced led) – the past tense of lead
  • lead (pronounced led) – the metal
less / fewer
  • less – applies to items that cannot be counter
  • fewer – applies to items that can be counter
one / won
  • one – a number
  • won – to have conquered
peak / peek
  • peak – the top
  • peek – a look
  • raise – something is being lifted (I raise my hand. With raised brows.) Past tense is raised.
  • rise – The object ascends without assistance. (The single is rising up the charts.) Past tense is rose.
  • rang – past tense of ring (I rang the bell.)
  • rung – past perfect of ring (I have rung the bell.)
set / sit
  • set – requires a direct object
  • sit – to rest, does not require a direct object
shutter / shudder
  • shutter – covers for a window
  • shudder – a jitter
sight / site
  • sight – vision
  • site – a place, i.e. a website
their / there / they’re
  • their – belonging to someone
  • there – a place, point, or state
  • they’re – they are
then / than
  • then – an action
  • than – a comparison
to / too / two
  • to – a motion toward
  • too – also
  • two – a number
wack / whack
  • wack – as in wack job
  • whack – to hit
waste / waist
  • waste – trash
  • waist – the middle of your body
who / whom
  • who – the subject of a sentence
  • whom – the object of a sentence (Whom does he love? Note that HE is the subject, so whom is used.)
whose  / who’s
  • whose – possessive
  • who’s – contraction for who is
you and I / you and me
  • you and I = we  (If you could use we, then use you and I.)
  • you and me = us  (If you could use us, then use you and me.)
your / you’re
  • your – possessive of you
  • you’re – you are

Common Typos

bought / brought
breathe / breath
cleaver / clever
clothe / cloth
chose / choose
grove / groove
knight / night
life / live
lose / loose
though / thought / through
trial / trail

Correct Expressions

What things LIE ahead.

State your PIECE. (The expression means to state your side.)

Common Grammar Issues


Mom (meaning the proper noun) vs my mom
OK vs okay – Technically “OK” is an abbreviation, thus “okay” should be used.
alright vs all right – Although “alright” is gaining acceptance, the proper way is “all right.”


Make sure that punctuation lands within quotes. Search for ”. and replace it with .”


Quotation marks within quotation marks act like brackets in algebra.

While it might seem confusing, this sentence is properly punctuated: “So, I just walk in and say, ‘Hi, Dad.”?”

However, the Oxford Style Manual seems to say that in this particular case, you should drop the full stop, but that is not completely clear. In section 5.13.2 (quotation marks – relative placing with other punctuation) it states: “Usually, only one mark of terminal punctuation is needed. When the requirements of the quotation and the main text differ, use the stronger mark.” So theoretically, if you consider the full stop to be less important to the sense of the sentence as a whole than the question mark is, you should use the question mark. However, the Oxford Style Manual then goes on to say that if the punctuation inside and outside the quotation marks are EQUALLY important to the sense, you should keep both. The example they give is: Did he really shout “Stop thief!”?

So, it is a matter of judgment. Consider if the full stop as important to the sense of the sentence as the question mark is. From there, follow the appropriate rule, but basically, yes, “So, I just walk in and say, ”Hi, Dad.”?” is correct.

If you’d like to suggest an addition to this post, please place it in the comments section below, and I’ll pop it in. Thanks!