Commonly Misused Words

This is cause for genuine confusion for some. I read many, many manuscripts every year and there are some very experienced writers who still mess it up from time to time, myself included if I'm typing on autopilot or having a brain freeze. Or the marsupial visited.

Wilson's dirty, bub

This is confusing because this is the one case where the apostrophe doesn't denote ownership. Remember: the replacement rule over-rules ownership.

It's = It is, eg "It's great fun playing The Sims 2."
Its = ownership, eg "Have you given your ball its bath, Reno?"


Right = correct, also the opposite of "left", and something everyone's entitled to, eg, "I have a right to respect if I give it." Or "You are right to assume it took a while to type this using my left and right hands."

Write = get words down into written form (if you remember the word "written", which one to use becomes a no-brainer), eg, "I often think I write badly but some really wonderful people encourage me anyway. I love them."


This one is really easy to remember if you learn the apostrophe rules.

Your = the second person ownership form of "you", eg, "This is your day, make the most of it."

You're = the contraction of "you are", with the apostrophe replacing the a in "are," eg, "You're going to find this easy to understand if you remember your apostrophe rules."

Yore = "olde", a long time ago. An over-used cliché, especially in any story with a wizard or medieval maiden. No one has any reason to use this word unless they're being pretentious. Don't bother with it: leave it in the days of yore, where it belongs.


Which = a question of choice, eg, "which of these words is correct in this context?"

Witch = Er, don't get me started on this one. An often derogatory term for an elderly or "bad" woman prone to devil worship or spellcasting, used historically as an excuse for misogyny by medical, religious and other extremist groups based on the misreading of certain scriptures. Actually, the Greek word translated "witch" means "druggist" and comes from the word we now use for "pharmacist". No, I am not wiccan, but I am irritated. Um. Eg, "Never mind, I'm sure everyone can use the word witch in context without me needing to give an example."

Whitch is not a word. Neither is wich.

Dows he love me, I wanna know

There = a place. "It's over there. Can we go there? There it is!" (Remember thus: Where? There!)

Their = owned by them. "It is their coat." (See, this one follows the full "I before E" rule, too. Any other sound...).

They're = remember your apostrophe rule? They are. "They're over there, with their mothers."


Weather = the climate, what it's like outside. "How's the weather in Finland this time of year?"

Whether = if. "I wondered whether I should kiss him."

Wether = a gelded male sheep. "The wether never realised he could be a ram."

Next - Other Stuff to Remember

Comment on this tutorial
Story Links