10 Commonly Misused Words and Expressions

By guest contributor PJ Feinstein. Photography by Torrie.

Our blogging voices may be unique, but what we should all have in common is good grammar. Readers do notice if you mistakenly use your instead of you’re—and you’d be surprised how often I catch that grammatical error. If you want to take your writing to the next level, start by refreshing yourself on some basic rules of grammar and reviewing these commonly misused words and expressions.

Alright/All right
Although you may see alright used in informal writing, it is properly written as two words—all right.

Compare to/Compare with
Use compare to when pointing out similarities between objects: “My fluffy dog has been compared to a stuffed animal.”
Use compare with when pointing out differences: “I have fewer days off in November compared with last month.”

Effect/Affect
Effect, as a noun, means “result.” “The effects of this anti-aging cream are amazing!”
Affect, a verb, means “to influence.” “His charm does not affect me.”

Farther/Further
Farther refers to measurable distance: “I can run one-mile farther than my husband.”
Further is used for abstract lengths: “I plan to research the topic further.”

Its/It’s
Its is a possessive pronoun: “See the hot pink car across the street? I like its color.”
It’s is a contraction of it is: “See the hot pink car across the street? It’s such an ugly color!”

Lay/Lie
As present tense verbs, lay requires a subject and a direct object; lie does not. “I lay my jewelry on the dresser.”
“Excuse me, while I lie down on the sofa for a few minutes.”

Less/Fewer
Less refers to a hypothetical quantity: “I like this song less than I did yesterday.”
Fewer refers to a number: “I have fewer Twitter followers than I did yesterday.”

May/Might
Use may when something is likely to happen: “I may grab a coffee this afternoon.”
Use might to imply uncertainty or an unlikely outcome: “I might finish this blog post tonight.”

Than/Then
Than refers to a comparison: “I’m taller than my sister.”
Then has to do with time: “I’ll eat dinner and then watch TV.”

Your/You’re
Your is the possessive form of you: “Your hair is so pretty!”
You’re is a contraction of you are: “You’re so pretty!”