Top 7 Errors Seen in Recent Years

Top 7 Errors Seen in Recent Years

1. Past and Present of the Verb “To Lead”
This is the most surprising error we’ve seen lately. The present tense is “lead” and the past tense is “led”; but for some reason, a lot of people are spelling them both “lead.”
We should never say that Henry V “lead” his army into battle, unless perhaps he wore a leaden expression as he did so (which, given the speech attributed to him by Shakespeare, seems unlikely). Henry led his army to victory.

2. “Assure” vs. “Ensure”

This next error is frequently seen in business copy. Clients use “assure” when they mean “ensure.” For example, “We will assure your safe arrival at the helipad.” No. They mean they will ensure your safe arrival—and they are assuring you that they will do so.
To remember the distinction, think of “reassure”—it’s a verbal thing you do for someone to put his or her mind at ease. “Ensure” simply means to make sure that something happens, whether it’s good or bad. You can’t assure someone’s safety. But you can ensure it if you take the proper precautionary measures.
3. “Loath” vs. “Loathe”
This one seems pretty easy, given that one is an adjective and one a verb. They’re pronounced differently too, but a lot of people tend to use “loathe” for “loath” these days. Here are correct examples: “I loathe that garish vest you’re wearing; the ostrich feathers are hideous.” “I am loath to wear anything that is not tasteful.”
You should never see, or use, the words “I am loathe.” In fact, I am loath to see them in the previous sentence, even as a bad example.
4. “Amid” and “Amidst”
The distinction between these two words was recently made in another post (“Eating Bubble and Squeak Whilst Taking Out the Garbage Which Is Smelly”).
Summary: The former is American, the latter British; but like so many Britishisms, the latter is catching on in the U.S. because people think it makes them sound more highbrow.
5. “Tenant” vs. “Tenet”
We often see the former used when the latter is meant. The funny part is we seldom see the reverse. A tenant is someone who rents an abode. A tenet is a principle or doctrine or belief that is generally believed to be true. It’s possible that the failure to distinguish between these two may be blamed on voice dictation systems that hear “tenant” even when “tenet” is said, simply because it’s a more commonly used word.
6. “Predominantly/Predominately”
“Predominately” simply isn’t a word.
The word “predominant” exists, and it is an adjective; the word “predominate” exists, and it is a verb; but the –ly form makes an adverb—which can be made only from an adjective.
Thus, there is no such word as predominately. Please strike it from your vocabulary. (But if you see it, know that what the writer means is “predominantly.”)
Here are examples of correct usage: “The audience members at the showing of Harold and Maude were predominantly Baby Boomers.” “The predominate virtue claimed by the narrator in The Great Gatsby is honesty.”
7. And Last, an Oldie But a Goodie: “Affect” and “Effect”
This one never seems to go away, does it? It is understandable, given that both “affect” and “effect” can be used as either a noun or a verb. We’ll do our best to make the difference between them clear.
“Affect” is more often used as a verb, as in “You affect me more deeply each time I hear you doing that Tibetan throat singing.” However, it can be used as a noun, usually in psychological parlance: “His affect was blank as he talked of being abandoned by his parents, a classical demonstration of affect not being congruent with mood.”
“Effect” is more often used as a noun, as in “You had quite an effect on me when I first saw you in your granny bloomers.” However, it can be used as a verb; very often when it is used that way, it’s followed by the word “change”: “If you want to effect positive change in the world, you’ll probably need to stop spending all your time with your stuffed animals.”
What are the errors you see (and loathe)? Don’t be loath to tell us. You may be able to effect change by doing so.

2 Responses to “Top 7 Errors Seen in Recent Years”

  1. Morton says:

    Brava! “It’s possible that the failure to distinguish between these two may be blamed on voice dictation systems.” No, I think it’s illiteracy.

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