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  • A cappellatwo words, with two p's and two l's.
  • A la (à la)in the manner of.
  • A leg up(1) A boost or (2) a position of advantage. From foot racing.
  • A lot vs. alotThe informal phrase meaning much or many is two words. Alot is an informal form.
  • A prioribased on conjecture, prejudice, or abstract reasoning rather than real-world experience.
  • A whole nothercolloquial for a whole other.
  • A.D., B.C., B.C.E., C.E.A.D.: (anno domini, Latin for in the year of the lord) the period beginning with the year 1. C.E.: common era, an alternative term for A.D. B.C.: (before christ) all time before the year 1. B.C.E.: before common era.
  • Abandon vs. abandonmentAbandon: 1. unbounded enthusiasm; 2. a complete surrender of inhibitions. Abandonment: the act of abandoning something.
  • Abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms
  • Abdicate, abnegate, abrogateAbdicate = (1) to give up power; (2) to cut oneself off from a responsibility. Abnegate = to deny oneself something or to surrender a privilege. Abrogate = to formally repeal or abolish.
  • Abecedarius= a poem in which each line or stanza begins with a successive letter of the alphabet.
  • Abetter vs. abettorAbettor is the more common spelling.
  • Abided vs. abodeAbode is the traditional past tense of abive, but abided is the preferred form in 21st-century English.
  • Abjure vs. adjureAbjure = to recant solemnly. Adjure = to entreat solemnly.
  • Abolishment vs. abolitionThere is no substantive difference between them, but abolition is and has always been the preferred form.
  • Aborted vs. abortiveAborted = terminated before completion. Abortive = (1) failing to cause an intended objective; (2) causing the termination of a pregnancy.
  • About-face= to turn in the opposite direction, literally or figuratively. It is hyphenated as both a noun and a verb.
  • Absorption vs. adsorption
  • Abstracter vs. abstractorBoth forms are common, but abstractor is favored.
  • Abstruse vs. obtuseAbstruse = difficult to understand. Obtuse = (1) not pointed; (2) simpleminded or imperceptive.
  • AccellAccelerate is the word.
  • Acceptance vs. acceptation
  • Acclimate, acclimatise, acclimatize They are interchangeable, but acclimatise is preferred outside North America. In North America, acclimatize is a variant of the more common acclimate.
  • Accord vs. accordanceTo be in accord is to be in agreement. To be in accordance is to be in compliance.
  • AcephalousIn poetry, an acephalous line is one that lacks an initial syllable suggested by the meter.
  • Achilles' heel= the lone point of vulnerability in an otherwise powerful person or thing. Achilles is possessive, but some publications leave off the apostrophe.
  • Acknowledgement vs. acknowledgmentBoth spellings appear everywhere, but acknowledgement is more common outside North America, and acknowledgment is more common in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Acquaintanceship= acquaintance.
  • Active voice vs. passive voice
  • Ad hoc= for this specific purpose.
  • Ad hominem (usage)= personal, as in personal attacks.
  • Ad infinitum= to infinity.
  • Ad nauseam= to a nauseating extent, length, or degree.
  • Ad vs. addAd: advertisement: Add: to combine or to increase with an addition.
  • AdamanceAdamant traditionally had no corresponding noun, but adamance has arisen to fill that role. As it is new, some English speakers still question it.
  • Adapter vs. adaptorBoth are common, and there is no difference between them (though some people make their own distinctions).
  • Adaption vs. adaptationAdaptation is the preferred form, but the less common adaption is old and is not considered incorrect. They share all their definitions.
  • Addicting vs. addictiveAddicting makes logical sense, but it always bears replacement with the old, reliable addictive.
  • Addiction vs. dependenceDependence = a physical dependence on something. Addiction = a psychological. Ask a psychologist, though, and the difference is likely to be much more complicated.
  • Addition vs. editionAddition = (1) the act or process of adding; (2) something added. Edition has several definitions mostly related to publishing.
  • Adjectiveswords describing or qualifying nouns and pronouns.
  • Administrate= administer.
  • Admission vs. admittanceAdmission = (1) the act of allowing to enter, (2) the right to enter, (3) the price required to enter, and (4) an acknowledgment of truth. Admittance = entry.
  • Adopted vs. adoptiveThe adopter is adoptive. The adoptee is adopted.
  • Advance vs. advancedAdvance = in advance. Advanced = (1) at a high level, (2) far along, and (3) of high difficulty.
  • Adverbs
  • Adverse vs. averseAdverse = acting in opposition. Averse = opposed to or strongly disinclined.
  • Advert vs. avertAdvert = (1) refer or call attention; (2) short for advertisement in British English. Avert: to turn away or ward off.
  • Advice vs. adviseTo advise is to give advice. Advise is never a noun, and advice is never a verb.
  • Adviser vs. advisorAdviser is preferred throughout the English-speaking world, but advisor is fairly common and is not a misspelling. The words are interchangeable.
  • Aegis= protection, sponsorship, or auspices.
  • Aeon vs. eonEon is preferred in American English and in science. Aeon is preferred in nonscientific writing from outside the U.S.
  • Aeroplane vs. airplaneAirplane in American and Canadian English; aeroplane outside North America.
  • Aesthetic vs. asceticAesthetic = of or relating to beauty, art, or appreciation of art. Ascetic: of or relating to self-discipline or self-denial.
  • Aether vs. etherEther is now the preferred spelling throughout the English-speaking world. Aether survives mainly in historical references and as a poetic affectation.
  • Affect vs. effectAffect = mainly a verb meaning to have an effect on. Effect = mainly a noun referring to a result or outcome. But see the full post for other senses of the words.
  • Affective vs. effectiveAffective: of or relating to emotion. Effective: producing a desired effect.
  • Afflict vs. inflictAfflict (with) = to impose suffering on. Inflict (on) = to deal out or impose (something on someone).
  • Affluent vs. effluent
  • African-American vs. blackSome people prefer African-American for cultural reasons, but black is not offensive and in fact might be preferable in many contexts.
  • Afterward vs. afterwardsBoth are common and acceptable throughout the English-speaking world, but afterward is more common in the U.S. and Canada, and afterwards is more common outside North America.
  • Afterward vs. afterwordAfterward: later or subsequently. Afterword: a concluding section at the end of a book.
  • Ageing vs. agingAging in North America; ageing outside North America.
  • Agent and recipient nouns
  • Ages (hyphenation)When phrases like 12-year-old are adjectives, they are hyphenated when they precede what they modify, and unhyphenated when they follow what they modify. As nouns, they are hyphenated.
  • AggravateThe senses to irritate and to anger are old and fully established. Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise.
  • Aggression vs. aggressivenessThey are mostly interchangeable, but in real-world usage aggression often connotes more hostility and maliciousness than aggressiveness, which can be a positive quality.
  • Agnostic vs. atheistAn atheist is someone who believes there are no gods or lacks awareness of gods. An agnostic either believes it is impossible to know or is noncommittal on the issue.
  • AgreeAgree is intransitive in North America. It is increasingly transitive outside North America.
  • Ahold= colloquial variant of hold.
  • Aid vs. aideAn aide is someone who helps. An aid is something that helps.
  • Ain't= colloquialism for am not, is not, are not, has not, or have not. It is out of place in formal writing but common in the speech of many regional varieties of English.
  • Aisle vs. isleAn aisle is a passageway or division between two sides. An isle is an island.
  • Akimbo
  • Alasarchaism meaning, essentially, "oh no!" or "how unfortunate!"
  • Albeit= a concise way of saying although it is or although it be.
  • All but= almost, nearly, or on the verge of.
  • All in all = (not all and all) everything being taken into account.
  • All right vs. alrightAlright is not fully accepted, but it is gaining ground, especially as an adverb.
  • All that= (1) very; (2) exceptional.
  • All together vs. altogetherAltogether is an adverb meaning entirely. In all other uses, make it two words---all together.
  • All-around, all-roundAll-around in the U.S. and Canada; all-round outside North America.
  • Alligator vs. crocodileAn alligator is a type of crocodile.
  • Allude vs. eludeAllude = to make indirect reference. Elude = to evade or get away.
  • Allusion vs. elusion vs. illusionAllusion = indirect reference. Elusion = escape. Illusion = a mistaken perception.
  • Alphabetic vs. alphabeticalUse alphabetical to describe things that are in order according to the letters of the alphabet. Use alphabetic for of or relating to an alphabet.
  • Already vs. all readyAlready is only an adverb. The phrase meaning completely prepared or (of a group of people or things) ready is always two words---all ready.
  • Also-ran
  • Altar vs. alterAltar = a platform used in religious ceremonies. Alter = to change.
  • Alter ego= second self.
  • Alternate vs. alternativeAn alternate replaces something else. An alternative provides another option without replacing the original.
  • Although vs. thoughThey are interchangeable as conjunctions, but not interchangeable where though is an adverb meaning however or nevertheless. Although doesn't work as an adverb.
  • Aluminium vs. aluminumAluminium is preferred in much scientific writing and in all writing outside North America. Aluminum is preferred in nonscientific writing from the U.S. and Canada.
  • Alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnusAlumna = a female graduate. Alumnae = female graduates. Alumni = male graduates or male and female graduates. Alumnus = one male graduate.
  • Amalgam vs. amalgamationAmalgam = a combination. Amalgamation = the act of making an amalgam.
  • Amazeballs
  • Ambiance vs. ambienceAmbience is preferred in all main varieties of English.
  • Amend vs. emendAmend = (1) to change for the better, (2) to put right, or (3) to alter by adding. Emend = to improve (a text) by editing.
  • AmericanAmerican as a term for U.S. people and things may always be controversial, but its use is very well established and is not going away.
  • Amiable vs. amicableAmiable = (describing people) good-natured or likable. Amicable = (describing relationships or interactions) characterized by goodwill.
  • Amok vs. amuckAmuck fell out of favor in the middle 20th century. Amok is now the preferred spelling.
  • Among vs. amongstThey mean the same. Amongst is rare in American English and fairly common elsewhere.
  • Amoral vs. immoralAmoral = removed from moral sensibility. Immoral = bad from a moral standpoint.
  • Amount vs. numberMass nouns---i.e., uncountable things such as rain and courage---come in amounts. Count nouns---i.e., countable things such as people and dollars---come in numbers.
  • AmpleAmple once described things that were copious or plentiful, but it's now often used to describe things that are merely sufficient or just enough.
  • Amuse vs. bemuseAmusing = funny. Bemusing = perplexing or thought-provoking.
  • An historicUsing the article an before historic would only makes sense if the h were silent. It isn't.
  • Analog vs. analogueOutside the U.S., the word is spelled analogue in all its senses. It is usually analog in American English, though the older spelling survives in the sense something that bears analogy to something else.
  • Analogue vs. analogyAn analogy is a similarity or a comparison based on a similarity. An analogue is something that is similar to something else.
  • Analyse vs. analyzeAnalyze in American and Canadian English; analyse outside North America.
  • AnapestA foot composed of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one.
  • Anathema= a detested person or thing.
  • And yetThe and is often unnecessary.
  • Animal adjectives
  • Annex vs. annexeThe verb is spelled annex everywhere. The noun is sometimes spelled annexe in British English.
  • Another think comingAnother think coming is the original phrase. Another thing coming is an alternative form popularized on the mistaken belief that the original is wrong (and the original is grammatically awkward, but intentionally so).
  • Antennae vs. antennasAntennas = metallic apparatuses used to receive signals. Antennae = insect appendages.
  • Anyplace = colloquial for anywhere or any place.
  • Anytime vs. any timeThe two-word any time is always the safer choice if you are writing for school or work or in any other formal context. If you do use the one-word form, anytime, make sure it is an adverb.
  • Anyway vs. anywaysAnyways is not wrong, but many people consider it wrong or at least informal.
  • Ape vs. monkeyThey are different groups of primates.
  • Apologise vs. apologizeThe older apologize is accepted everywhere, but apologise is now the more common spelling in varieties of English from outside North America.
  • Apostrophe
  • Apostrophe (poetry)a figure of speech in which a speaker addresses an imaginary or abstract thing.
  • Apotheosis= (1) deification, (2) glorification, and (3) an exalted or glorified example.
  • Appal vs. appallAppall in North America; appal everywhere else.
  • Appeal to authority= the fallacy in which the speaker attributes truth to a statement because it is made by someone perceived to have authority.
  • Appositives= a word or phrase that renames something that came earlier in the sentence.
  • Appraise vs. appriseAppraise = to evaluate or to determine the value of. Apprise = to make aware.
  • Appropriate vs. expropriateAppropriate = to set something apart for a specific use. Expropriate = to deprive of possession.
  • Apropos= with respect to. It is not related to or synonymous with appropriate.
  • Archaeology vs. archeologyArchaeology is preferred everywhere.
  • Arctic, AntarcticThey have two c's.
  • Argumentative vs. argumentiveArgumentative is standard.
  • Armor vs. armourArmor in the U.S.; armour everywhere else.
  • Around the clock, round the clockBoth forms are common. Hyphenate it when it's an adjective preceding what it modifies. Don't hyphenate it when it's adverbial.
  • Around vs. roundThey are interchangeable in the senses associated with around but not in all senses associated with round.
  • Arouse vs. rouseThey are interchangeable in some senses, but arouse is more often figurative, and rouse more often refers to physical actions.
  • Arrant vs. errantArrant = complete. Errant = roving or straying from the proper course.
  • Arse vs. assArse is the British slang word referring to the posterior or to a stupid person. Ass is the American equivalent.
  • Artefact vs. artifactArtifact in the U.S. and Canada; artefact outside North America.
  • As far asoften bears replacement with more logical alternatives.
  • As perOften jargonistic, often wordy for per or as.
  • As yet, as of yetWordy for yet, still or so far.
  • Ascared= colloquialism for scared.
  • Ascent vs. assentAscent = a rise. Assent = agreement.
  • Ascent, ascendance, ascendancy, etc.Ascent = a rise. Ascendance and ascendancy = prevalence or dominance. Ascendance is a primarily American variant of the more widely used ascendancy.
  • Asphalt, cement, concrete, pavementPavement = general term for hard manmade surface. Concrete = tightly packed composite matter. Cement = limestone-based powder that binds and hardens when mixed with water. Asphalt = bitumen-based sticky substance used to bind concrete mixtures.
  • Assail vs. assaultThey are mostly synonymous, but assault often refers to physical violence, while assail often refers to nonphysical attacks.
  • Assent vs. consentAssent is more enthusiastic and is given more readily than consent.
  • Assume vs. presumeA presumption is more authoritative than an assumption.
  • Assure, ensure, insureAssure = (1) to make sure something occurs, (2) to give confidence to or encourage, or (3) to make (someone) certain (of something). Ensure = to make sure. Insure = to provide financial protection against loss.
  • At loggerheads= in a dispute.
  • At the end of the day
  • Attache= (1) a specialist on a diplomatic mission; (2) an attache case. The accent on the e is optional.
  • Attain vs. obtainTo attain is to reach, achieve, or accomplish something. To obtain is to get something.
  • Attend to vs. tend toBoth mean (1) to work for or be a servant to, and (2) to apply one's attention to. They differ where tend to means to have a tendency to.
  • Au contraire= French for on the contrary.
  • Auger vs. augurAn auger is a tool. An augur is an omen.
  • Aughtanything whatever.
  • August
  • Aural vs. oralOral: of or related to the mouth. Aural: of or related to auras.
  • Authorise vs. authorizeAuthorize is the American and Canadian spelling and was the traditional spelling in British English, but today many British publishers favor the newer authorise.
  • Authoritative vs. authoritiveAuthoritative is the preferred form.
  • Autumn vs. fallOnly autumn is used outside North America. Both are used in the U.S. and Canada.
  • Auxiliary verbs
  • Avail= (1) to make use of; (2) to be of use; (3) benefit or advantage.
  • Avant-garde= experimental, innovative, or progressive.
  • Avocation vs. vocationVocation: a career or calling. Avocation: a hobby.
  • Awhile vs. a whileAwhile = an adverb meaning for a while. When it's not an adverb, make it two words.
  • Ax vs. axeAx in the U.S.; axe everywhere else.
  • Axel vs. axleAn axel is a figure skating move. An axle is a shaft connecting two wheels.

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