Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writing Tip of the Day: Common Errors Part I

A new feature on the Empirical blog will be frequent writing tips that relate to commonly misused words, grammar, sentence structure, and some creative writing ideas. These lessons are drawn from the wealth of experience of the Empirical staff, as well as the robust and endless information available on the internet. To make sure you get the opportunity to read these posts, then be sure to follow the blog and like us on Facebook.

To start us off, here are 5 commonly misused words:

  1. Advice/advise 
    1. Difference between whether you are using a noun or a verb 
      1. A fellow student asked for my advice about how to study for the sociology final. 
      2. I will advise my friend on how to best approach the sociology final.
  2. Allusion/illusion 
    1. Both are nouns, but are different in terms of context 
      1. Your allusion that I have might have failed this class is incorrect. 
      2. The illusion that it is impossible to pass this class is quite false.
  3. Cite/site/sight 
    1. The difference is whether it is being used as a noun or a verb 
      1. I cited many prestigious researchers in my thesis. 
      2. Room 211 will be the site of my thesis defense. 
      3. It was quite a sight to see how happy I was to receive my Master’s degree.
  4. Conscience/conscious 
    1. One is a noun and one is an adjective 
      1. It was a conscious choice to apply to graduate school. 
      2. My conscience would not allow me to cheat on the exam. 
  5. Council/counsel 
    1. Both can be used as nouns 
      1. The council was tasked with deciding on the budget. 
      2. I gave counsel to a good friend of mine during a trying time. 
      3. I counseled a friend of mine on how to cope with the loss of her beloved dog.


  1. Thanks for sharing! Indeed, I've seen these mistakes in people's writing. It is easy when writing quickly to insert the wrong word, but that is why we should go back and edit. Take care!

  2. My favorite sound-alike threesome, all adjectives, and my nomination for #6:
    Imminent means something (bad) is about to happen: The execution is imminent.
    Immanent refers to something dwelling within: God's grace is immanent.
    Eminent means high or exalted, ranking above: The head table was filled with eminent community leaders.

    I'm glad I have my OED!

  3. Charlotte H. MorrowJune 2, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    In addition, a lot of people, especially student have trouble with compliment and complement. Some dissertation paper I saw have problems with these two words. Compliment is an expression of esteem, respect or affection, while complement comes from the word complete that is something that fills up or completes other. Hope I help!