Fun fact: The Oxford English Dictionary defines more than 600,000 English words.
Not-so-fun fact: All of us are bound to misuse words from time to time, especially words that sound alike or are closely related.
Today, we’ll review some of the most commonly confused words and remind you how to use them correctly.
Anxious suggests one is "worried"; eager implies one is "happily anticipating" something.
He is anxious about the possible results of the loan application.
We are eager to break ground on the project.
Discreet means "showing good judgment, unobtrusive"; discrete means "distinct or separate." (Remember the difference by noting that the t in discrete separates the e’s.)
The reprimand was handled in a discreet, professional manner.
The policy requires employees to keep personal social-media accounts discrete from business social-media accounts.
Farther refers to physical distance; further means "to a greater extent" when referring to time, quantity, or degree.
My departure gate is farther away than I expected.
They looked further into the matter but discovered that no rules had been broken.
Fewer refers to countable units; less refers to quantity, value, or degree.
Fewer complaints mean less customer dissatisfaction.
Imply means "to suggest, hint, or communicate indirectly"; infer means "to deduce or conclude from."
I did not mean to imply that I would ignore the problem.
The customer incorrectly inferred that I was ignoring the problem.
real, very, really
Real is usually used as an adjective meaning “authentic.” Do not use it in place of the adverbs very or really.
Our personal coaching delivers real results.
She worked very hard for the promotion.
He did not really comprehend the seriousness of the accident.
The misused words featured above often slip past grammar and spell-checkers. Careful proofreading will help you flag and correct misused words in your writing. To catch common errors, we recommend creating and updating a list of words that befuddle you (the “Notes” app on your phone is a great place for this) and referring to your list when you proofread.