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Misspelling any of these little words can result in BIG prejudices against you and your writing. To avoid these prejudicial misspellings:

  • Identify the troublesome part of the word.
  • Devise some memory gimmick for remembering the correct spelling.
  • Distinguish between frequently confused pairs of words by being certain of the correct spelling for one of the pair; the second word can be spelled by a process of elimination.

Use the following sentences to help you make the distinction.

it's - It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to. (it's = it is, contraction)
its - The cat licked its paws. (possession)

affect - How does this paper affect my grade? (verb)
effect - What is the effect of the pretest? (noun)

hear - I could hear the music from a block away. (verb)
here - The girl left her books here. (adverb-location)

know - I know the answer to that question. (verb)
no - The professor said no when I asked to turn my paper in late. ("nix")
now - Now is the time to ask. (adverb-time)

lose - She will lose her job. (verb)
loose - If she does, she won't have any loose change. (modifier)

quite - The world is quite large. ("very")
quiet - I need quiet to sleep. ("not noisy")

then - I woke up late and then forgot my book. (adverb-time)
than - I studied for the test more than you did. (comparison)

weak - The old man was hungry and weak. ("not strong")
week - Friday is my favorite day of the week. ("seven days")

to - She is going to the store. (preposition-location)
too - You're too funny. ("excessively" - extra "o")
two - After one comes two. (the number)

your - Spot is your dog. (possession)
you're - You're going to the store. (you're = you are, contraction)

accept - Please accept my apology. (verb)
except - They all went, except Bobby. ("excluding")

there - They live there. (adverb-place)
their - This is their house. (possession)
they're - They're living in this house. (they're = they are, contraction)

whether - Do you know whether tomorrow is o.k.? ("if")
weather - The weather will be warm and pleasant. ("rain, sunshine," etc.)

through - The ball went through the window. (preposition-location)
threw - She threw the ball. (verb)

a lot - I have a lot of stuff to do. (two words)

all right - It's not all right; it's only partly right. (two words)

separate - They slept in separate beds. ("sepArate")

studying - I have a lot of studying to do. ("studYing")

receive - You will receive a letter in the mail. (i before e except after c)

etc. - My list included bread, milk, eggs, etc. (Latin, et cetera = "and other things")

English - I'm proud to say that my major is English. (Capitalize languages.)

*List compiled by Carmen Werder; sentences contributed by Cara Ungar, Wendy Sloane, and Cheryl Adams.