My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Commonly Misused Words and Expressions, #1

Selected tips from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary:

  • "Aggravate. Irritate."
    • The first means to further annoy or anger someone. The second means to initially annoy or anger someone. A person has to be irritated before they can be aggravated. An aggravating situation is only possible if the situation was already irritating someone. Think of it in stages: calm; irritated; aggravated.
  • "All right."
    • This has become very common in everyday speech. I have seen it written as "all right," "allright," and "alright." Only the first is correct; the last two are incorrect. Unless you are texting your friend, it is best to stick to two words.
  • "And/or."
    • When used as a phrase, "and/or" is outdated and annoying. It also ruins any chance you have at clarity. Instead, break the phrase up and use two clauses or sentences. Make the possibilities separate instead of trying to lump it into one. Clarity cannot always be accomplished by taking shortcuts; this is one of those times.
  • "Anybody."
    • If your meaning is "any person," then the word should be "any body." If you could replace it with "any human," "any corpse," or "any student," then you need to use "any body."
  • "Anyone."
    • If you are using it to mean "anybody" (not to be confused with the above), it is written as one word. If you mean "any single person," "any individual student," or "any single thing," then it needs to be written in two words, as "any one."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great post! I like the way you identify two words that are most often left off of word lists of this kind: anybody and anyone.

    Can I add an additional word?


    I see *so many* writers (WRITERS!) misuse this poor word. I could go on with a rant and a rave. But as usual, Grammar Girl does it best:

    Every time I read a about someone feeling "badly" visions of Edward Scissorhands dance into view. Now good old E.S. is someone who feels badly. Most able-fingered characters? Not so much.

    Thanks for this!

    (Sorry, I accidentally deleted this post. Re-posting.)

  3. Thank you very much!

    I agree with the "badly" issue. Thank you for addressing it! And the example is great =)

    Thanks for reading. Make sure to check back, I strive to post daily (and I've been succeeding so far!).