Whether it’s due to an impending deadline or a simple misunderstanding, students, and writers at large, are guilty of misusing words in their papers. Revealing that you don’t understand a word can significantly cut down on your reliability and credibility. While we can’t cover every word you’ll ever write, here are the Writing Center’s five most commonly misused words that you won’t have to worry about anymore.
Distinguishing between these two words has been a plague to students since their first five-paragraph essay. This mistake can result from a simple misspelling or a misunderstanding. Here’s a simple breakdown of the difference between affect and effect.
Affect: This is a verb and represents an action.
Correct Use: Earthquake victims are affected by the lack of aid.
Effect: This is a noun and represent the result of an action .
Correct Use: The effect of the hurricane was mass destruction.
There is very little difference between these two words. They are basically synonyms except for the difference in where the feeling originates.
Perturb: An internal disquiet that comes from within a person (i.e. the person’s own thoughts and perceptions) without any external cause.
Correct Use: Jenni was pondering the idea of cold-blooded murder which perturbed her.
Disturb: An internal disquiet inside a person that is a reaction to an external source.
Correct Use: Jenni watched a horror movie last night and she was deeply disturbed.
This word relationship is exactly like that of perturbed and disturbed. The difference is in the origin.
Provocative: This is something that creates a physical, external reaction (facial expression, speech, or action).
Correct Use: The provocative theatre performance caused many in the audience to cry and applaud.
Evocative: This is something that causes emotions or images within a person.
Correct Use: The evocative writing in Grapes of Wrath illustrates the lost hope of the American dream.
This distinction is also very slim and, in all honesty, is probably an error that is not taken too seriously. However, you can use this trick if you don’t want to take the chance.
Amount: This word is used for quantities that are measured as a whole, as one group.
Correct Use: The amount of plagiary in Elliot’s paper was inexcusable.
Note: Elliot committed multiple acts of plagiarism. However, all those acts are grouped together in one large act of plagiary in this paper.
Number: This word is used for items that can be counted individually even though they are in a group.
Correct Use: The number of people in the elevator increased during the lunch hour.
Note: Each person in the elevator is representative an individual. These people are not being morphed into one huge person in the elevator, therefore, they retain their individuality with the use of the word “number,” which implies that you can count the individual bodies.