The Five-Minute Writing Lesson
Get it Right Every Time! Ten Confusing Words You Will Never Misuse Again!
Lie vs. Lay
Chickens lay (place) eggs. I don’t, but if I did, I’m sure I’d have to lie (rest) down after the ordeal.
Elicit vs. Illicit
I was unable to elicit (evoke) a response from my aged mother about her illicit (illegal) liquor at the senior center.
Climactic vs. Climatic
The climactic (climax) moment of the outdoor production of Macbeth was ruined when the climatic (weather) brought on a heck of a storm.
Affect vs. Effect
My gentle attempt to affect (influence) my two-year-old daughter’s unacceptable behavior resulted in an adverse side effect (result).
Allusion vs. Illusion
An illusion (misconception) in the final scene of Hitchcock’s in Vertigo leaves Scottie (James Stewart) with a false impression. The director’s allusion (indirect reference) to his real intentions was misunderstood.
Abdicate vs. Abrogate
The king decided to abdicate (resign) his throne rather than abrogate (abolish) the law stating everyone must wear clothes in public.
Adverse vs. Averse
The crew ignored the warning and sailed into adverse (unfavorable) weather, causing the landlubber aboard to become seasick because he was averse (reluctant) to taking motion sickness medication.
Accept vs. Except
I no longer accept (receive) birthday gifts, except (apart from) when they involve great amounts of money.
Aggravate vs. Irritate
Hercule Poirot’s obsessive neatness tended to irritates (annoy) Captain Hastings, which would in turn aggravate (exacerbate) the trouble they were having in solving the investigation.
And Finally: Nauseous vs. Nauseated
Do people who pick their noses make you nauseous or nauseated? As for me, I’m nauseated (sickened) because their behavior is nauseous (sickening). In other words, I’m nauseated by their nauseous conduct.