There’s a whole lot more where this came from! Jess is doing a list today too and she’s got some great words 🙂
1. lose or loose-the first means to misplace something. Pronounced looz. The second means it’s not tight, pronounced loos (soft s).
2. lay/lie– Oh dear. Do you really want to get into this one? Here’s the most important thing to remember: the verb lay demands an object. You do it to something, in other words. You lie in bed but you lay the covers on the bed. See? You’re doing something to the covers. That’s as simple as I can make it without giving a lot of examples, but the main difference is the direct object for lay.
3. affect/effect– Seriously? This one gives me a headache because there are about four different uses. Personal effects. Her affect was sad. You have that effect on me. But you affected me greatly. Head hurt yet? Yeah. Mine too.
4. its/it’s– its is the possessive. It shows possession of something. Example: That’s its mate. It’s = It is. It’s my mate. I always recommend people read the words out as “it is” so you know which one you need. If it doesn’t sound right, you use the one without the apostrophe. That’s it is mate. Nope, not right so you know you need “its”
5. your/you’re– same as above. Your is possessive. It’s your coat. You’re is a contraction for you are. You’re my huckleberry. And again, read the sentence with “you are”. If it doesn’t sound correct, you use the one without the apostrophe. It’s you are coat doesn’t sound remotely correct so you know you need “your”
6. their/they’re-are you sensing a pattern here? Their is possessive. Its their coat. They’re is a contraction for they are. They’re my neighbors. Same rule as above to figure out which is needed. Read the sentence with “they are” and see how it sounds. If it sounds awkward, you need their, not they’re.
7. then/than– when you’re using the word for time purposes, it’s then. Example: Every now and then, I like to smoke. Or: He bought a pack of cigarettes and then he smoked them. But when you’re making a comparison of something, it’s than. For instance: He’s smoking more than normal. I smoke less than he does.
8. reign/rein – this one seems funny to put in, but I see it a lot. Reign is what a king/queen does. Reins are what you use on a horse.
9. lightening/lightning– I have a huge brain block on this one. I think just about every Samhain final line editor has caught it in one of my manuscripts because I read right past it. Lightning is the cool stuff in the sky. Lightening is what happens when something gets lighter.
10. a lot (not alot)– because alot isn’t a word no matter how much you want it to be
11. all right (not alright)– again, because alright isn’t a word (though I do allow it in dialogue because I think it has a different “sound” when spoken)
12. conscious/conscience– conscious is how you choose to do something. In other words, you’re aware of your choices/actions, do it on purpose. Also means you’re awake 🙂 Conscience is a noun always and it’s something you have.
13. ascent/assent– Okay, here’s a little trick to remember assent: Assent means to agree and they both are a word with double letters. Ascent means some type of movement in the up direction
14. to/too— the only time you use too is if you mean also or that something is excessive. I ate too much. You’re too dang stubborn. Otherwise, to is correct! (well, not for the number two but I didn’t think that needed saying, lol)
I’m adding two more that came to me this morning: callous/callus— Callus is what you get on your hands and feet. Callous is what I am when I get a submission that has typos in the first sentence, a one paragraph synopsis (or no synopsis) and an author who emails once a day for a week to see if it’s been read yet. Yep, then I’m callous.
Also bare/bear. You bare it all (go naked) but if a bear defecates (I could NOT bring myself to type shits for some reason) in the woods will you bear with him? And when you bear a child maybe someone will come bearing gifts for you. Basically, bare is always going to be about showing something–baring it all–or missing something (like an article of clothing) otherwise, you’re using bear. (this one is for you, Rene 😉 )