Do you misuse or misspell these 5 words or phrases?

by | Mar 15, 2012 | Grammar & Spelling

Five words people commonly misuse or misspell, including definitely, advice, and leery.

When’s the last time you thought about your big toe?

Unless you just had a pedicure, it’s probably been a while. But drop a can of tomatoes on that puppy, and ouch! Your toe will draw your attention all day long.

It’s like that with grammar and spelling errors, too. When we’re reading, we don’t really notice good spelling, properly placed apostrophes, or phrases used correctly—nor should we. It’s those glaring errors that stand out. That’s why an apostrophe in the wrong spot or a simple misspelling can turn an article, menu, poster, or brochure into a throbbing toe.

Take misused words, for example. I found a list of Top 10 Misused English Words and discovered that I’m guilty of abusing several myself, including decimate, ultimate, and enormity. Who knew?

So I come to you humbly to present a few more common words and expressions that people often misuse or misspell. See if you catch yourself doing any of these. If so, pick one or two to work on, making sure you teach your children to use them correctly too!

1. Do you write pouring over?

Instead, write poring over. We pore over books, articles, advertisements, and data, but we pour juice, coffee, syrup, and cream.

Just don’t pour coffee over your books.

2. Do you write leary of?

Though leary appears to be a variant, leery is the standard and preferred spelling. I’m leery of Kim’s grammar advice.

Speaking of which…

3. Do advise and advice confuse you?

Advise is a verb that means to counsel, recommend, warn, or give advice.

Advice is a noun meaning an opinion or recommendation.

It’s common to see someone write, “Thanks for the good advise.” If you tend to make this mistake, may I advise you to take my advice and double-check your spelling?

4. Do you write definately?

How about defiantly? Both are common misspellings of definitely. And you definitely want to spell this one correctly.

I know you do.

5. Do you write cirriculum?

Because I hang out in homeschooling circles, I often see the word cirriculum used on homeschool message boards, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’re guilty of dropping this brick on people’s toes, remember that ci makes a soft /s/ sound (cigar, cinnamon), but cu makes a hard /k/ sound (cube, curtain). My advice? Spell it correctly—curriculum. Your readers will thank you.

Wait. No, they won’t.

As a matter of fact, they won’t notice at all.

And that’s definately definitely a good thing.

Photo: Kozzi


  1. Ingi

    Definately – I definitely spell that one wrong (when I was a teacher, they had a “teachers spelling bee – it was the word I got, and yup, in front of 200 Year 7 kids, I spelled it wrong).

    • Kim

      Too funny, Ingi! Bet you don’t get it wrong anymore!

  2. Umi

    Dear Kim,
    I am an Indonesian working and living in Hong Kong. I love English very much, and I’m trying to improve my English level by reading any kind of materials that comes accross me. I love your site lots, it’s useful. Also, I bookmark it so that I can visit your web again any time I need some help especially my grammar.
    Warm regards,

    • Kim

      Good for you, Umi! I applaud you for continually learning and growing. Thank you for stopping by my blog; I’m so happy to know you’re finding helpful tips here.

  3. Kim

    Cute, Janet!

  4. Janet

    I find I’m guilty of “pouring over” your blog, Kim!

  5. Kim

    Shannon: Thanks for doing that legwork. I’m happy to be in your good company. 🙂

  6. Shannon

    It would be nice if all words had only one definition like the top 10 list assumes.

    I looked up enormity in three different online dictionaries, including, Cambridge, and Oxford. Enormity also means greatness of size or scale.

    Ultimate does mean being the best and most supreme of its kind.

    Decimate does refer to killing or destroying a large portion of something.

    So, rest assured, you, George Bush, and I were all correct.


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