Welcome to the second part of “Words to Write By.” You can find the first installment of this series here. In the first “Words to Write By,” I reviewed peak vs. peek vs. pique, further vs. farther, blonde vs. blond, and gray vs. grey. Since then, I’ve been making a list of commonly misused words. I’ve also received suggestions from other writers on words they’ve seen misused, and you will see them appear in this series with their name to acknowledge their contribution to the list.
Alleged: This is a word commonly misused by journalists in articles about crime and trials. Our judicial system is based on the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty. For instance, someone on trial for murder would be an alleged murderer. That part is easy enough, and is used correctly most of the time. Where it is often misused is when it’s applied to a victim, suspect, or person of interest. Putting alleged victim implies that a crime may not have happened, or there is doubt about the victim’s story. Regardless of whether there is doubt about either, there is no need to put alleged. The practice of putting alleged in articles of a criminal nature is to prevent indicating a person is guilty before they have been tried, and preventing libel. The same applies to a suspect or person of interest. They either are or are not a suspect or a person of interest. Those terms do not imply guilt; therefore, the use of alleged before them is not needed. You also would not put alleged after a person has been convicted of a crime.
Hung vs. hanged: I find this one interesting, because it is an instance where using the proper word might sound awkward to the ear, but here’s an easy way to keep them straight. An object is hung. Stacy hung a painting above the fireplace. A person is hanged. Peter hanged himself in the woods. Or, Clare will be hanged for her crime.
A vs. the: This one might seem easy. A and the are some of the first words we learn to read and write, and yet, I’ve often read the wrong one used. Perhaps because people intuitively use the words, they don’t realize there is a difference between the two. A is used when referring to someone or something for the first time. A wasp stung me when I was painting my house. The, on the other hand, is used when referring to someone or something that has already been mentioned, or when referring to something specific. The wasp stung me again when I left for the Denver Art Museum.
Bring vs. take: This comes from Christy who often comments on this blog. To keep this straight, think about the object being moved, and where it is being moved in relation to a person. For instance, Bring me back a souvenir. I want the object moved toward me. If I want the object moved away from me, I’d use take. Take this cake home with you, or I’ll eat it all. If the subject is not you, but another person, think about how the object is moving in relation to them instead. What would you like me to bring you for dinner? And, Can I take out your garbage for you when I leave? In both cases, the subject is the person you’re speaking to, and you’re moving the object in relation to them, not you.
Look for future installments of “Words to Write By.” I love writing this series because it’s a bit of a stress relief going through words that have given me a headache when editing my work before, or looking at words that give other writers trouble.
I’m curious, did any of these words surprise you or ever give you trouble, or have you ever seen them used incorrectly? What other words either give you trouble when you write, or you find annoying when they’re misused? If I use the word(s) you suggest in your comment in a future post in this series, I’ll not only add your name, but I’ll include a link to your website if you have one.
Next week, I have a book suggestion on writing that may inspire you to finish the book you’re working on, or get you through whatever writing project you’re stuck on. Until then, have a beautiful week!