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GRAMMAR SERIES: Commonly misused words

Today, in the first of a two-article grammar series, we'll break down some commonly misused words. Words can be used incorrectly when they are mistaken for other words or when they're simply used other than the way they were intended.

Mixed-up words

These are words that look and/or sound like each other but have different meanings. These mistakes are harder to catch through read-aloud systems and spell-check, because they're correctly spelled words—just not the right ones.


A phase is something a person can go through, while a person can be fazed (or unfazed) by a shocking event. People often use "phased" when they mean "fazed." Since most words don't have the letter Z in them, one way to remember how this is by remembering that you are unfazed by the word's strange spelling.

Incorrectly used words


This word can be used as a form of "includes" that encompasses everything within. So, the United States comprises 50 states. Even professional writers misuse this phrase by writing "is comprised of," but "comprise" is not the same as "composed."


Think of it like this: You can lie down, or you can lay something down. The conjugations of these words can be confusing, and there is no easy way to memorize them. I would suggest checking out a handy chart like this one.


Use "fewer" when the object being measured can be counted (like boxes and people). Use "less" when it can't be counted (like sand or time).


"Bring it to me" is correct; "take it to me" is not. An object can be brought to someone or taken away.​

Remember: this list doesn't include all the words that can be misused, only the most common ones I see while editing and reading. Next week, we'll look at commonly misused phrases.

Stephi Cham is an editor at Write Plan. You can find her on Twitter at @stephiesque.


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