Business Writing Tip #67—Easily Misused and Confused Words Part 1

A few people have contacted me about words that are frequently misused, so I thought it was worth putting together at least one post about some of these. (I’ve labelled it part one in anticipation of future parts which may, or may not, be forthcoming!)

In this post I’m going to look at errors I commonly see…

principalPrincipal/Principle

Principal is a noun which means a person with authority (e.g. the school principal, a principal of a consultancy firm). It can also be an adjective. When it’s an adjective it means main, chief, most important or leading. (E.g. My principal reason for turning down the job was because I didn’t want to move countries.)

Principle is a noun that means a “fundamental basis of a system of thought or belief”. (E.g. This is one of the basic principles of democracy.”

Stationary/Stationery

Stationary is an adjective that means that something is fixed or not moving. (E.g. There was an accident and the traffic was stationary for over twenty minutes.)

Stationery is a noun that means writing materials. (E.g. Please print the letters on the company stationery.)

Foreword/Forward

Foreword is a noun that means an introductory note or preface. (E.g. The foreward includes information about my reasons for writing this book.)

Forward is an adjective or adverb that means “toward the front”. (E.g. I sat in the forward section of the plane.” It can also be a verb meaning to send something on (i.e. to forward an email, etc.)

Few/Less

Few is an adjective that we use with countable nouns and it means small in number. (E.g. There were a few books on the table.) Less is also an adjective but it means small in amount or degree (not number) and it’s used with uncountable nouns. (E.g. I have less money now than I had this time last year.)

Their/There/They’re

Their is the 3rd person plural possessive pronoun. (E.g. Their house is at the end of the street.)

There means in, at or to that place or position. (E.g. The book is over there on my desk

They’re is the contraction of “they are” which is commonly used in speech and informal writing. (E.g. Did you catch up with the Smiths? They’re here for the summer.)

And just for fun, here’s a sentence using all three.

They’re going to visit Prague with their mother because she loves it there.

 

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