Hi there! It’s your friendly editor, Michelle L Devon, here to bring you another edition of Commonly Misused Words in Writing. Today, I have selected three sets of commonly misused words I regularly see written improperly in articles found on the internet.
Today’s words we will discuss are: Principle vs principal, two vs too vs to, and your vs you’re.
However, before I begin, I would like to comment on a word that I regularly see misused that I don’t believe is an error in use as much as it is a Spell Check problem. Many times, I have seen writers use the word DEFIANTLY when the word they mean to use is DEFINITELY.
Defiantly is defined as meaning: rebelliously: in a rebellious manner.
Definitely is defined as meaning: decidedly: without question and beyond doubt.
As you can see, these two words mean very different things, but many times, I see writers using defiantly instead of definitely. The reason for this is most likely because the writer has begun to type the word ‘definitely’ and spells it incorrectly, and thus Spell Check in MS Word auto corrects the word to ‘defiantly’.
I beg of you writers, please be sure to watch for Spell Check grabbing a word and auto correcting it like this and make sure it truly IS the word you intended to use.
Okay, moving right along, let’s talk about this article’s commonly misused words.
Principle / Principal
The way I learned to remember this word was something my mother, an English major in college, taught me when I was a young child.
Your principal at your school is your pal.
When you are writing about a person who is the leader of a school, he is a principal, not a principle.
The definitions of principle are:
** A rule or standard, especially of good behavior;
** A basic truth or law or assumption;
** Rule of personal conduct
We can take a stand on principle, but you might get detention if you stand on your principal.
The only time it is proper to use princiPAL is if you mean the administrator in a school. Every other instance of these homonyms should use principle.
Two / To / Too
I rarely see the word TWO used improperly, but I frequently see the words TO and TOO interchanged, and they have very different meanings and different parts of speech.
I’ll start with TWO since it’s the easiest. Two is a number; it comes after one and before three. It cannot be used to mean anything else except a number.
Now, the word TO is a preposition, most frequently used in a prepositional phrase to provide additional information about the subject of the sentence.
Example: He is going TO the store. He is turning left TO get on the highway.
In this example, HE is the subject, and TO is the preposition, part of the prepositional phrase ‘to the store’.
However, many people use the word TO instead of the proper word TOO when needing an adverb and not a preposition. Most frequently TOO can be replaced by the word ALSO or the phrase ‘in addition’.
Example: Do you want to go with us to the store too?
‘To the store’ is the prepositional phrase, and as you can see, this sentence can be rewritten as: Do you want to go with us to the store also?
One way to remember when to use TOO instead of TO is to replace it with the word also, because TOO means to add something to the sentence. If you think of it this way, you can remember: when you want to add something to the sentence, you need to add an O on the end of TO. “I want to go too. (I want to go also.)” Add me to the list, because I want to go!
Now, I did say TOO as an adverb, and an adverb usually modifies a word, most frequently a verb but sometimes it can modify another adverb, and in this instance, the word TOO can be used like this:
This is too easy. The test was too hard.
Again, TOO adds an addition – add an O, add information – you are adding a word that modifies – it wasn’t just easy or hard – it was too easy or too hard.
Your / You’re
Again, I would like to direct you to my article about possessive and contractions.
Your is a pronoun and you’re is a contraction that stands for ‘you are’. When writing, if you can replace the word you’re with the words you are and the sentence still makes sense, then you need to use You’re and not Your.
Your is a second person pronoun, meaning something belongs to you. Your chair is over there. Your hat is on the stand. These are your keys, not mine.
As you’ll note, you cannot replace you are with your in these sentences: You are chair is over there. You are hat is on the stand. These are you are keys, not mine.
But in this sentence: Are you sure you’re okay with this?
You can rewrite this sentence: Are you sure you are okay with this?
Thus you now know when to use your and you’re, simply by always replacing you’re with the words you are, and if you can’t, you must use your.
Okay, that wraps up this installment of commonly misused words in writing. Stay tuned, more articles on this topic are coming, along with some commonly misused phrases in writing too (see – too!).