Editing Course: Wordplay I

When I opened my tutorial to today’s topic, I thought I’d breeze through it. I was wrong! In fact, I discovered I’ve developed some bad habits over the years, which means more self-retraining for me. I have identified three problem areas: 1) I have never used the word “farther” in my life, which means I have been using the wrong word in all of my manuscripts as I confused the meaning of “further”, 2) I nearly always use the word “alright” when correct grammar means I should have been using “all right”, and, 3) although I knew “a while” and “awhile” meant the same thing, I didn’t know that when you contract “for a while” to “awhile” the “for” becomes implicit and is dropped.

With that large admission out of the way, let’s move on to the tutorial.

9: Wordplay I

Many people confuse certain words that sound the same but have completely different meanings.

Which word is right?

Accept means “to receive” or “to agree”. Example: Dillan refused to accept the present.
Except means “all but” or “other than”. Example: Everyone drank coffee except Tanya.

Advise means “to recommend, suggest or give counsel”. Example: I advise you to be careful when going out alone.
Advice means “an opinion or recommendation about what could or should be done”. Example: Peter asked for advice from his father.
Hint: If you can substitute the work with “inform” and the sentence still makes sense then the word you should be using is “advise”.

Farther relates to “distance”. Example: The shop was farther than I thought.
Further means “more than”. Example: I don’t want to discuss this matter further.

Which means you are including additional information that the sentence does not need.
That means the information you are including is important to the sentence.

Example: The computer that Jane was using at the time was too slow for the work she was doing.

If we change “that” for “which” then we have to insert commas:

The computer, which Jane was using at the time, was too slow for the work she was doing.

In the second sentence we are telling the reader that the “which” clause can be removed. If we remove the clause we’ll have:

The computer was too slow for the work she was doing.

Although this reads well, it is unclear as we don’t know who “she” is. Therefore, the words “that Jane was using at the time” are essential for clarity so “that” should be used. If you read the two sentences out loud you’ll discover the first sentence using “that” sounds better.

One word or two?

Over time the English language has changed. At one time “alone” was actually “all one” but this change is accepted as it’s been this way for a couple of centuries.

However, other words that are commonly joined, such as “all right” and “all ready”, are still not acceptable in certain uses.

All ready means “to be prepared for something”. Example: The family were all ready to go to the party.
Already is an expression of time. Example: Tim was surprised to discover his car had already been fixed.

All right and alright share the same meaning. “All right” is the formal spelling and should be used most of the time depending on context and readership.

All together means “to be grouped together”. Example: All together the restaurant bill came to $452.
Altogether means “entirely, wholly or completely”. Example: Jenny’s whining sparked an altogether different outcome.
Hint: If you can insert the word “completely” and the sentence still makes sense, then you should be using the word “altogether”.

Any one refers to “any one thing in a group”. Example: Any one of the students could fail the test.
Anyone means “any person at all”. Example: Anyone can fail tests if they don’t study.

Every one means “each person”. Example: Every one of us has an opinion.
Everyone means “any person at all”. Example: Everyone has an opinion.

Any way means “any particular course, direction or manner”. Example: Any way Peter looked at it the problem was unresolved.
Anyway means “in any case” or “nonetheless”. Example: Jan didn’t need a new bag, but she bought one anyway.

May be is used to “express the possibility of something”. Example: This may be the only chance I have to change my life.
Maybe means “perhaps”. Example: Maybe we should wait until we have some money before buying a new car.

A while and awhile mean “a short period of time”. However, they are easily confused. Consider this example:

Won’t you stay with me awhile?

Although the above example is acceptable, the correct use is as follows:

Won’t you stay with me for a while?

You should never write: Won’t you stay with me for awhile?

When you contract “for a while” to “awhile” the “for” becomes implicit in “awhile” and so drops off.

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