Tag: English usage

Mitigate or militate

Mitigate or militate?

These two verbs have similar spellings and they sound alike when they are pronounced. As a result, it’s easy to get them confused, even though their meanings are completely different. Mitigate means ‘make something less harmful, severe, or bad’. It’s often used in formal or official contexts, as in the following sentences from the Oxford […]

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Short and tweet

Keeping it short and tweet

I’m getting addicted to @OxfordWords on Twitter, where you can see all the latest from Oxford Dictionaries plus some great interaction with our thousands of followers. There’s a real skill to tweeting well: as many of you know, there is a 140-character limit to Twitter posts, so it can take some ingenuity to get your […]

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Alluding to illusions …

Illusion

Emmy host Jimmy Fallon … made a sly illusion to Conan O’Brien’s firing as host of “The Tonight Show”. CNN transcripts, August 2010 (taken from the Oxford English Corpus). As the above incorrect usage shows, among many troublesome twosomes in the English language are illusion and allusion. It doesn’t help that their pronunciations are similar, […]

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Compliment or complement

Compliment or complement?

A lot of people get these two words confused. It’s easy to see why: they’re pronounced in the same way and have very similar spellings but they have completely different meanings. If you compliment someone, you are expressing admiration for them, or praising them for something. Here are some examples from the Oxford English Corpus showing the […]

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-ize or -ise?

-ize or -ise?

Many people visiting the World (non-US) version of our website ask us why we spell words such as realize, finalize, and organize with ‘-ize’ spellings, rather than ‘-ise’. There’s a widespread belief that these spellings belong only to American English, and that British English should use the ‘-ise’ forms instead, i.e. realise, finalise, and organise. […]

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Affect-effect

Affect versus effect

Every month, affect is one of the most searched-for words in Oxford Dictionaries Online. Its high ranking in our search logs is probably because a lot of people are confused about the difference between affect and effect, two words which have almost the same spelling, but very different meanings. The basic difference between them is […]

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Word trends: viral

Computer virus

Viral now has more meanings than it used to. In the twentieth century, you would only have encountered this word in the physiological context of diseases: Rabies is an acute viral infection that is extremely rare in the UK. A quarter of the residents had high levels of viral hepatitis. In the twenty-first century, most […]

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Tautology wordle

Reverting back to another language no-no

In my fearless quest to seek out and eradicate lazy, ineffective, or just downright inaccurate English, the latest blip to appear on my radar was an example of redundancy (aka tautology), which appeared on a medical website. By returning back to a more traditional diet they become healthier and stronger. Why is this raising my […]

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