100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses

100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses

by American Heritage Dictionary Editors


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Do you know how to use these 100 words?

100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses is the perfect book for anyone seeking clear and sensible guidance on avoiding common pitfalls of the English language. 
Each word is fully defined and accompanied by a concise, authoritative usage note based on the renowned usage program of the American Heritage® Dictionaries. Each note discusses why a particular usage has traditionally been criticized and explains the rules and conventions that determine what’s right, what’s wrong, and what falls in between. This edition has updated usage notes that have been reanalyzed and rewritten to account for language trends that have occurred since its initial publication in 2004. 
Troublesome pairs such as affect / effect, blatant / flagrant, and disinterested / uninterested are disentangled, as are vexing sound-alikes such as discrete / discreet and principal / principle. Other notes tackle such classic irritants as hopefully, impact, and aggravate, as well as problematic words like peruse and presently
100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses is guaranteed to help keep writers and speakers on the up-and-up! 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544791190
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/27/2016
Series: 100 Words Series
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 311,051
Product dimensions: 4.40(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

The Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries are trained lexicographers with a varied array of interests and expertise.

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(ad-vûrs', ad'vûrs')


1. Acting or serving to oppose; antagonistic: "And let thy blows, doubly redoubled, / Fall like amazing thunder on the casque / Of thy adverse pernicious enemy" (William Shakespeare, King Richard II). 2. Contrary to one's interests or welfare; harmful or unfavorable: "[M]ost companies are fearful of adverse publicity and never report internal security breaches ... to law enforcement agencies, security analysts contend" (Peter H. Lewis, New York Times). 3. Moving in an opposite direction: As it ascended, the balloon was caught in an adverse current and drifted out to sea.

[Middle English, from Old French advers, from Latin adversus, past participle of advertere, to turn toward : ad–, ad– + vertere, to turn.]



SEE NOTE AT averse (#13).


af·fect (I-fekt')

transitive verb

Past participle and past tense: af·fect·ed

Present participle: af·fect·ing

Third person singular present tense: af·fects

1. To have an influence on or effect a change in: Inflation affects the buying power of the dollar.2. To act on the emotions of; touch or move: "Then, far off in the distance, from the mountains on each side of us began a louder and a sharper howling — that of wolves — which affected both the horses and myself in the same way" (Bram Stoker, Dracula). 3. To attack or infect, as a disease:Rheumatic fever is one of many afflictions that can affect the heart.

noun (af'ekt')

1. Feeling or emotion, especially as manifested by facial expression or body language: "The soldiers seen on television had been carefully chosen for blandness of affect" (Norman Mailer, Vanity Fair). 2.Obsolete A disposition, feeling, or tendency.

[Middle English affecten, from Latin afficere, affect–, to do to, act on : ad–, ad– + facere, to do.]

SEE NOTE AT effect (#28).


af·fect (I-fekt')

transitive verb

Past participle and past tense: af·fect·ed

Present participle: af·fect·ing

Third person singular present tense: af·fects

1. To put on a false show of; simulate: "He wheedled, bribed, ridiculed, threatened, and scolded; affected indifference, that he might surprise the truth from her" (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women). 2. To have or show a liking for: affects dramatic clothes.3. To tend to by nature; tend to assume: In my chemistry class, we study substances that affect crystalline form.4. To imitate; copy: "Spenser, in affecting the ancients, writ no language" (Ben Jonson, Timber).

[Middle English affecten, from Latin affectare, to strive after, frequentative of afficere, affect–, to affect, influence; see AFFECT.]



SEE NOTE AT effect (#28).


ag·gra·vate (ag'rI-vat')

transitive verb

Past participle and past tense: ag·gra·vat·ed

Present participle: ag·gra·vat·ing

Third person singular present tense: ag·gra·vates

1. To make worse or more troublesome: "Drinking alcohol (especially heavy drinking) or taking tranquilizers or sedating antihistamines shortly before bedtime can aggravate snoring by reducing muscle tone" (Jane E. Brody, New York Times). 2. To rouse to exasperation or anger; provoke.

[Latin aggravare, aggravat–: ad–, ad– + gravare, to burden (from gravis, heavy).]





Aggravate comes from the Latin verb aggravare, which meant "to make heavier," that is, "to add to the weight of." It also had the extended senses "to burden" or "to oppress." On the basis of this etymology, some claim that aggravate should not be used to mean "to irritate, annoy, rouse to anger." But such senses for the word date back to the 17th century and are pervasive. In our 2005 survey, 83 percent of the Usage Panel accepted this usage in the sentence It's the endless wait for luggage that aggravates me the most about air travel. This was a significant increase from the 68 percent who accepted the same sentence in 1988.


al·leged (I-lejd', I-lej'id)


Represented as existing or as being as described but not so proved; supposed: "Cryptozoology is the study of unexplained and alleged sightings of strange creatures not documented by standard zoology" (Chet Raymo, Boston Globe).



An alleged burglar is someone who has been accused of being a burglar but against whom no charges have been proved. An alleged incident is an event that is said to have taken place but has not yet been verified. In their zeal to protect the rights of the accused, newspapers and law enforcement officials sometimes misuse alleged. Someone arrested for murder may be only an alleged murderer, for example, but is a real, not an alleged, suspect in that his or her status as a suspect is not in doubt. Similarly, if the money from a safe is known to have been stolen and not merely mislaid, then we may safely speak of a theft without having to qualify our description with alleged.


all right

(ôl rit)


1. In good condition or working order; satisfactory: The mechanic checked to see if the tires were all right.2. Acceptable; agreeable: "Men are all right for friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones" (Willa Cather, My Ántonia). 3. Average; mediocre: The performance was just all right, not remarkable.4. Correct: These figures are perfectly all right.5. Uninjured; safe: The passengers were shaken up but are all right.


1. In a satisfactory way; adequately: "Cobol was designed to be somewhat readable by nonprogrammers. The idea was that managers could read through a printed listing of Cobol code to determine if the programmer got it all right. This has rarely happened" (Charles Petzold, New York Times). 2. Very well; yes. Used as a reply to a question or to introduce a declaration: All right, I'll go.3. Without a doubt: "They [Bonobos] are chimpanzees, all right, but almost the reverse of their more familiar cousins (Phoebe-Lou Adams, Atlantic Monthly).

Despite the frequent use of the form alright the single word spelling is still widely viewed as nonstandard. In our 2009 survey, more than two-thirds of the Usage Panel rejected alright in examples like Don't worry. Everything will be alright, whereas over 90 percent accepted all right in the same examples. This resistance may seem peculiar, since similar fusions incorporating all, such as already and altogether, have never raised any objections. The difference may lie in the fact that already and altogether became single words back in the Middle Ages, whereas alright has only been around for a little more than a century and was called out by language critics as a misspelling. Readers may view the use of alright, especially in formal writing, as an error or a willful breaking of convention.


al·to·geth·er (ôl'tI-geth'Ir)


1. Entirely; completely; utterly: The three-year-old, then, is a grammatical genius — master of most constructions ... avoiding many kinds of errors altogether" (Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct).2. With all included or counted; all told: "There were altogether eight official Crusades"(The Reader's Companion to Military History, Robert Cowley). 3. On the whole; with everything considered: Altogether, I'm sorry it happened.


A state of nudity. Often used with the: The artist's model posed in the altogether.

[Middle English al togeder.]

Altogether and all together do not mean the same thing. Altogether is an adverb that indicates totality or entirety: I rarely eat tomatoes, and I avoid peppers altogether. All together is an adverb that indicates that the members of a group perform or undergo an action collectively: The nations stood all together. The prisoners were herded all together. All together is used only in sentences that can be rephrased so that all and together may be separated by other words: The books lay all together in a heap. All the books lay together in a heap.


a·mong (I-mung') also a·mongst (I-mungst')


1. In the midst of; surrounded by: A tall oak tree grew among the pines.2. In the group, number, or class of: "Santería has a growing following among middle-class professionals, including white, black and Asian Americans" (Lizette Alvarez, New York Times). 3. In the company of; in association with: I spent the summer in Europe traveling among a group of tourists.4. By many or the entire number of; with many: "It has long been a tradition among novel writers that a book must end by everybody getting just what they wanted, or if the conventional happy ending was impossible, then it must be a tragedy in which one or both should die" (Molly Gloss, Wild Life). 5. With portions to each of: Distribute this among you.6. With one another: Don't fight among yourselves.

[Middle English, from Old English amang: a, in + gemang, throng.]

SEE NOTE AT between (#14).


as·sure (I-sho?or')

transitive verb

Past participle and past tense: as·sured

Present participle: as·sur·ing

Third person singular present tense: as·sures

1. To inform positively, as to remove doubt: The ticket agent assured us that the train would be on time.2. To cause to feel sure: The candidate assured the electorate that he would keep his promises.3. To give confidence to; reassure: "Katharine assured her by nodding her head several times, but the manner in which she left the room was not calculated to inspire complete confidence in her diplomacy" (Virginia Woolf, Night and Day). 4. To make certain; ensure: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty" (John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address). 5.Chiefly British To insure, as against loss.

[Middle English assuren, from Old French assurer, from Vulgar Latin *assecurare, to make sure : Latin ad–, ad– + Latin securus, secure.]



nounas·sur'er, as·sur'or

SEE NOTE AT insure (#49).


au·ger (ô'gIr)


1a. Any of various hand tools, typically having a threaded shank and cross handle, used for boring holes in wood or ice: "[He] can himself build a cabin with the three necessary implements: an ax, a broadax, and an auger" (Michael Ennis, Architectural Digest). b. A drill bit. 2a. A machine having a rotating helical shaft for boring into the earth. b. A rotating helical shaft used to convey material, as in a snow blower.

[Middle English, from an auger, alteration of a nauger, from Old English nafogar, auger.]

transitive verb

Past participle and past tense: au·gered

Present participle: au·ger·ing

Third person singular present tense: au·gers

To bore by means of an auger: The fishermen augered a hole in the ice.

SEE NOTE AT augur (#11).


au·gur (ô'gIr)


1. One of a group of ancient Roman religious officials who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens. 2. A seer or prophet; a soothsayer.


Past participle and past tense: au·gured

Present participle: au·gur·ing

Third person singular present tense: au·gurs

transitive1. To predict, especially from signs or omens; foretell. 2. To serve as an omen of; betoken: Early returns augured victory for the young candidate.

intransitive1. To make predictions from signs or omens. 2. To be a sign or omen: A smooth dress rehearsal augured well for the play.

[Middle English, from Latin.]


adjectiveau'gu·ral (ô'gyI-r Il)

An auger is a tool used for boring holes. An augur is a seer or soothsayer. The verb augur means "to foretell or betoken," as in A good, well-grounded education augurs success. Augur is also commonly used in phrases such as augur well or augur ill, as in The quarterback's injury augurs ill for the game.


av·er·age (av'Ir-ij, av'rij)


1. The value obtained by dividing the sum of a set of quantities by the number of quantities in the set. Also called arithmetic mean: The average of 2, 5, 8, and 11 is 6.5.2. A number that is derived from and considered typical or representative of a set of numbers. 3. A typical kind or usual level or degree: "My basic athletic skills — quickness, speed, coordination, all those things — were a little above average, but what I could do better than anybody my age was anticipate what a pitcher was going to throw and where he was going to throw it" (David Huddle, The Story of a Million Years). 4. The ratio of a team's or player's successful performances such as wins, hits, or goals, divided by total opportunities for successful performance, such as games, times at bat, or shots: The team finished the season with a .500 average.


1. Computed or determined as an average: "By ten o'clock average windspeed is forty knots out of the north-northeast, spiking to twice that and generating a huge sea" (Sebastian Junger, The Perfect Storm). 2. Being intermediate between extremes, as on a scale: The teacher offered extra help for students with average grades.3. Usual or ordinary in kind or character: The firm conducted a poll of average people.


Past participle and past tense: av·er·aged

Present participle: av·er·ag·ing

Third person singular present tense: av·er·ag·es

transitive1. To calculate the average of: The teacher explained how to average a set of numbers.2. To do or have an average of: The part-time employee averaged three hours of work a day.

intransitive To be or amount to an average: Our expenses averaged out to 45 dollars per day.

[From Middle English averay, charge above the cost of freight, from Old French avarie, from Old Italian avaria, duty, from Arabic 'awariya, damaged goods, from 'awar, blemish, from 'awira, to be damaged.]



SEE NOTE AT median (#63).


a·verse (I-vûrs')


Having a feeling of opposition, distaste, or aversion; strongly disinclined: "Cheating on schoolwork has simmered on as long as there have been students averse to studying" (Christina McCarroll, Christian Science Monitor).

[Latin aversus, past participle of avertere, to turn away.]




Who isn't averse to getting adverse reactions to their ideas? Averse normally refers to people and means "having a feeling of distaste or aversion," as in As an investor I'm averse to risk-taking. People sometimes mistakenly slip in adverse for averse in these constructions with to. However, adverse normally does not refer to people, but rather to things that are antagonistic or contrary to someone's interests. Thus we say We're working under very adverse (not averse) circumstances and All the adverse (not averse) criticism frayed the new mayor's nerves.


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Table of Contents

Title Page,
Guide to the Entries,
Pronunciation Guide,
Pronunciation Key,
100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses,

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100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses 2.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Dr_Sunburst More than 1 year ago
Some common mistakes were highlighted. Very few were ones I did not know. Many differences were very obscure. The layout made cross-referencing somewhat cumbersome. Flipping back and forth between the Es for "ensure" and the Is for "insure" could have been avoided by dropping the alphabetizing and using an index, thus presenting the words together. After all that work flipping, the gist is that either is fine, unless you are in the insurance industry. The print was large and the pages small - several words could have been presented and contrasted on a few larger pages - but then I guess it would not have been thick enough to bind. It was a laudable effort, but I do not think it accomplished what it meant to do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After having perused this book, I must say that I am disappointed. I had expected, and hoped, to find 'your, you're'; or 'there, their, they're' among the words listed. They weren't even touched on, nor included. Nor did I find the 'either/or and neither/nor' rule. These are every-day, common-place words that I have seen misused over and over... daily! If you're going to print such material... please include the most common words that are confused and misused. Don't focus on the obsure ones.
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MWH50 More than 1 year ago
This is a very compact useful book for students and the general public. It makes an excellent gift for any student at the high school or college level.
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