Confused by Anxious vs Eager, Bad vs Badly, Fewer vs Less, Good vs Well, Its vs It’s? Read this post!

www.RuthlessEditor.comIs he anxious, or is he eager?

Does she feel bad, or does she feel badly?

I’ve written many times about misused words, but requests continue from friends, colleagues and blog subscribers to remind people of these common errors.

If you’re one who needs reminding, this post is for you!

averse / adverse

He was not averse to taking the medication, but he had an adverse reaction.
averse: having strong dislike or opposition to
adverse: harmful, unfavorable

affect / effect

Today’s storm will affect air traffic, but it should not have an effect on tomorrow’s flights.
affect: (verb) to change or influence something
effect: (noun) the result of an action

anxious / eager

I’m anxious about my performance review, but I’m eager to have it behind me.
anxious: feeling anxiety, worry, unease
eager: keen interest or desire

bad / badly

He felt bad that he didn’t make the tennis finals, but he played badly.
bad: (adjective) describes a noun or pronoun; used with feel, means an unpleasant emotion such as sadness or regret
badly: (adverb) describes a verb or action; means unsatisfactory inadequate, unsuccessful

council / counsel

The council voted to hire someone who can counsel the administrator on his management style.
council: (noun) assembly of persons convened for consultation, deliberation, advice
counsel: (verb) to give advice
counsel: (noun) lawyer(s) conducting a case; advice, especially given formally

discreet / discrete

He was discreet when he shared details of the two discrete conversations he had with the ambassador.
discreet: cautious, reserved, modest, especially in speech
discrete: distinct, separate, unrelated

ensure / insure

To ensure that you can take your children to a doctor when they are ill, we will insure your entire family.
ensure: to make certain
insure: to safeguard against loss, usually by securing insurance coverage

farther / further

The farther they walked, the further engrossed they became in conversation.
farther: greater distance
further: to a greater extent or degree

fewer / less

Fewer people signed up for the tournament this year, so we’ll need less food.
fewer: things you can count
less: quantity uncountable in terms of numbers

flout / flaunt

Despite warnings, students continue to flout the law when they flaunt riding mopeds on the sidewalk.
flout: to openly disregard, as a rule or accepted practice
flaunt: to display or make a great show of

good / well

Although she’s over the flu and feels good, she might not have the strength to dance well in today’s recital.
good: (adjective) describes a noun or pronoun; satisfactory, favorable
well: (adverb) describes an action; in a good way; to a high standard
(Note: “I am well” OK to express being in good health, but not “I’m feeling well.”)

its / it’s

It’s up to you, but I hope you’ll leave the key in its usual place.
it’s: contraction for it is
its: possessive of it

No one wants to be considered inept or uninformed for using the wrong word. I hope these short definitions and examples help keep the grammar police away from your door.

Do you have pet peeves about misused words? Send them to me!

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)