Wordy Wednesday: Common Wording Mistakes

My family went skiing up north over the weekend, during which we took a walk out on Lake Michigan to check out the frozen waves, and this happened:

Debating between quoting “Surfin’ USA” or “Let It Go.” The struggle is real.

I also climbed through ice caves formed by waves that had been in the middle of crashing as they froze, and tried sliding down a wave (“tried” being the operative word, here–my butt is yet to forgive me), and we went just a little bit crazy running around and geeking out about the sunset.

Now, though, I’m back at school with a freakish blizzard going on outside. (Seriously, Nature, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.)

In honor of the five thousand papers I need to write now that classes are back in session, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post about common wording mistakes and how to avoid them.


The Difference Between the Ground and the Floor, Etc.

Did you know the ground and the floor are actually two different things? If you did: Congrats on being above the curve. If not: now you do.

The ground is generally anything outside, while the floor is generally anything inside. The ground is generally something like grass or dirt, or–if you’re wiling away the days ’til spring in the Midwest like me, right now–lots and lots of freaking snow. The floor is generally hardwood or carpet or cement or tile or any other sort of surface that is inside (this includes dirt floors–if you’ve got a roof over your head, you’re inside, and therefore it’s the floor, not the ground).

Calling the floor “the ground” is like calling the ceiling “the sky.” It unfortunately just doesn’t work that way.

And on this topic: “the ceiling” and “the roof” are also two different things. The ceiling is inside the building, while the roof is outside it (kind of like how the inside of that thing that connects your body to your head is your throat, while the outside is your neck).

“Premiere” and “Premier” are Two Different Words

A “premiere” is the opening event of something, like a movie or play. A “premier” is something that is the best at what it is. So Terrible Blockbuster Movie might premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a premier movie.

Dialogue vs. Dialog

If it’s speech, it’s “dialogue.” The only time it’s “dialog” is if you’re referring to something like a “dialog box.”

You Affect the Effective Effect

“Affect” and “effect” aren’t interchangeable, but people often think they are. The difference between them is that “affect” is a verb, while “effect” is a noun. So you can affect the effect. The easy way of telling these two apart is that “affect” begins with an A, like “action.” If you want to say that something works well, use “effective” with an E, because this is an adjective (so it’s similar to a noun).

On the other hand, then there’s affect and effective’s love child, “affective.” Affective refers to how something affects emotion. (Ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s “affective” because the moody weather makes you depressed, thus affecting your emotions.)

Lead in the Present, but Led in the Past

“Lead,” as a verb, refers to guiding in the present tense. Hear that? Present tense. Although you spell it similar to “read,” which is the same in both the present and past tenses, “lead” doesn’t stay the same when it becomes past. Then it becomes “led.”

Know Your Quantities

I’m not entirely certain how to explain this one, so let’s start with an example of a quantity mistake: “They both had an ice cream cone.” This sentence might seem all right on the surface, but look a little closer and you’ll find that it signifies that two people (they both) are sharing one ice cream cone (an ice cream cone). If you mean to say that the pair of them had two ice cream cones, one per person, then you actually mean to say that, “They both had ice cream cones.” (Note, however, that I’m sure you can find better ways of phrasing that sentence than that, too. Because it still sounds kind of awkward, right?)

Good vs. Well

This is probably the most common mistake of all the ones in this post. How often do you hear someone say that she’s “doing good” in your day-to-day life, right? But this isn’t a proper use of “good.” Good is an adjective, while well is an adverb. So only use “good” in conjunction with nouns, and “well” in conjunction with verbs.

For example, if you do a good job (adjective, because it expounds on the noun), you’ve done it well (adverb, because it refers to how you do the verb).

I vs. Me

People generally have this one down when talking about themselves in the singular (so like “I ran to the store” or “he ran to me”). However, put your first person perspective into a list situation, and suddenly it’s next to impossible to get it right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been critiquing a manuscript and come across something like “Bob and me ran to the store” or “he ran to Bella and I.”

Knowing whether to use “I” or “me” in a list is really easy: just take out the other names and see how you’d do it normally, as if you were the only person involved. Then add the other names back in and POOF–you’ve got it.

Need a little more help? Remember to use “I” when you’re the one committing the action and “me” when someone else is doing the action to you. So those two examples from above, done properly, would be, “Bob and I ran to the store” (because you’re the one doing the action) and “he ran to Bella and me” (because he’s doing the action to you).


 My laptop’s about to die, so I’ll end there for today. What are some of the wording mistakes you find (or make) a lot? (I know I use “good” improperly when talking, like, ALWAYS.)

Want me to share more writing-related tips? Vote for “writing process” in the poll below and let me know what you’d like me to talk about in the comments.



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