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Voted Most Likely to Misuse


Proofreading. It's the bane of many (otherwise talented) copywriters' existence. And, a really crackerjack proofreader is a valuable member of any team.

Last year, we talked about proofreading and offered some helpful tips. (See:

Now, we want to review some of the common words that are way too commonly misused. This list can help you in two ways. First, hopefully it will clear up any confusion you might have about which version of what word to use when. Second, it's a good idea to doubly proof any section of your copy that uses one of these potentially tricky words.

Your and you're are not interchangeable. Your is possessive second person. You're is the contraction of the words you and are.
"Your campaign is so great, you're going to win a lot of industry awards."

Then and than are two different words. Then means at that time or next. Than is used for comparisons.
"Then the client told the agency that the results were better than the year before."

There, their, and they're should never be confused. There means a place. Their is the third person possessive. And, they're is the contraction of they and are.
"The agency left their portfolio at Starbucks, but they're hoping it will still be there when they go back."

To, too, and two mean totally different things. To can mean moving toward something, or it can preface the infinitive tense of a verb. Too means also. And two is the second number, when counting starts at one.
"As always, the two marketing managers had way too much to do."

Effect and affect often sound alike, but one is generally a noun (but not always) and the other is always a verb.
"The client's reaction can affect the way a campaign evolves. The client's reaction made a positive effect."

Loose and lose aren't the same thing. Loose means not firmly or tightly fixed in place. Lose means to be deprived of something or unable to find it.
"The copywriter's jeans were so loose, the creative director was afraid he would lose them altogether."

Compliment and complement are both good, but not synonymous. A compliment is a favorable comment. Complement is when something matches or works well with something else.
"The art director earned many compliments for choosing a color that complemented the client's brand so well."

• Finally, allright and alot are not words. They just aren't.
"The specs for the brochure were all right and the agency gave a lot of the credit to their trusted printer."

There are lots of other examples, but these are some of the most common mistakes we all make or find (hopefully, not after something is already printed).

This, naturally, leads to the question, "Does it matter?"

Well, if you're a teen texting another teen, the answer is "Hell, no."

But, if you're a businessperson who wants your customers, colleagues, supervisors, clients, and vendors to think of you as an intelligent and careful professional, then ... "Yeah, it really does."

'Hope that's all right with you too.



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