Distinguish between Commonly Confused Words. Using the wrong term is likely to divert audience attention from your main ideas and perhaps damage your credibility. When in doubt, check it out. Many words, because they sound alike or are used in similar situations, are commonly confused. Underline the word in parentheses that you would use in each sentence.

a. He (accepted, excepted) the award and thanked everyone (accept, except) the producer.

b. The professor (affected, effected) her students greatly and will now (affect, effect) a complete curriculum overhaul.

c. Are you deciding (between, among) red and green or (between, among) red, green, and blue?

d. I (can, may) scale the mountain but I (can, may) not reveal its hidden path.

e. The table was (cheap, inexpensive) but has great style whereas the chairs cost a fortune but look (cheap, inexpensive).

f. The explorer’s dream was to (discover, invent) uncharted lands but also to (discover, invent) computer programs.

g. She was (explicit, implicit) in her detailed description of the crime but made only (explicit, implicit) observations concerning the perpetrator.

h. He was evasive and only (implied, inferred) that he’d seek a divorce. You can easily (imply, infer) his reasons.

i. The wedding was (tasteful, tasty) and the food really (tasteful, tasty).

j. The student seemed (disinterested, uninterested) in the test while, in assigning grades, the teacher was always (disinterested, uninterested).

Here are the principles that govern correct usage. (1) Use accept to mean “to receive” and except to mean “with the exclusion of.” (2) Use to affect to mean “to have an effect or to influence” and to effect to mean “to produce a result.” (3) Use between when referring to two items and among when referring to more than two items. (4) Use can to refer to ability and may to refer to permission. (5) Use cheap to refer to something that is inferior and inexpensive to describe something that costs little. (6) Use discover to refer to the act of finding something out or learning something previously unknown, and use invent to refer to the act of originating something new. (7) Use explicit to mean “specific” and implicit to describe something that’s indicated but not openly stated. (8) Use to imply to mean “to state indirectly” and to infer to mean “to draw a conclusion.” (9) Use tasteful to refer to good taste and tasty to refer to something that tastes good. (10) Use uninterested to refer to a lack of interest, and use disinterested to mean “objective or unbiased.”

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