6 Word Mistakes You Could be Forgiven for Making


The recent Write Club Meetup on strange words – and a few recent embarrassing goof-ups – got me thinking about how often we get some basic things wrong in English usage. Some of the examples below will show that writers are not immune to these pitfalls at all. If anything, we’re falling into them more often than the regular person.

Not our fault that the language is so weird, eh?


Just the other day I got tagged in a Facebook page where a friend said she wanted to take a peek into my current manuscript. I replied with an excerpt, and added: ‘If you wanted to take a peak, you just had to ask.’

Bad enough when someone does it, but if you call yourself a professional writer, you should be above such things. I know. I messed up. To make matters worse, there was no ‘edit’ button on the page.

Fewer/Less – Amount/Number

This is more of a slip-up in speech than in writing. Especially when trying to refer to the percentages or proportions, I find myself saying, ‘The amount of people who…’ and then I correct myself. Sometimes I don’t bother and chug along, hoping no one would notice.


In my childhood, I used to think complementary angles in mathematics were so named because they liked the look of each other. Just the other day when a lady said ‘my husband complements me well’, I responded with: ‘And you deserve every compliment you get. You’re beautiful.’


When you want to refer to the possessive form of the word, you do not use the apostrophe. Even though we use it for just about every other noun. So ‘Jack’s apple’ is correct whereas ‘It’s apple’ is wrong when you refer to your dog. The correct usage is ‘Its apple’, without the apostrophe.

What’s ‘It’s’, then? Just a short form of ‘it is’, just like ‘what’s’ short for ‘what is’.

Confusing? Here’s a simple tip. Just think of whatever sounds intuitive, and then do the opposite. You won’t go wrong that way.


My wife likes to say she’s feeling nauseous. What she means is that she’s feeling nauseated. If you say you’re nauseous, you’re saying that you’re the one inducing nausea in others.

You still could be, but surely that’s not what you meant.


These two always trip me up. Infamous means you have a bad reputation. It’s almost the opposite (but not quite) or ‘famous’. But what does inflammable mean? Just the same as flammable, really. Why are they two words, then, instead of one word? Don’t ask me. I didn’t write the dictionary.

Do you have a pet word peeve of yours that constantly trips you up? This is the perfect place to rant.

Image Courtesy: Hiba Magazine


  1. I bloody hate the plural or possessiveness of things ending in S. Boys’ room of boys’s room. Jesus’ or Jesus’s. (I sometimes feel like writing Jesuses.) Get what I’m saying? Imagine a name Maks. And his girlfriend is standing across the street from his two friends. What’s one of them going to say to the other? “That’s Maks’s girlfriend” or “That’s Maks’ girlfriend.”


    • Totally get it, Amit. I think the accepted wisdom on that is use the apostrophe s in all but the plural case. So if Maks has a girlfriend, you will refer to her as Maks’s girlfriend. Same thing with Jesus’s.

      On the other hand, boys’ room is right because it’s the plural form.

      You will see many people (especially on the internet) getting this wrong, and sometimes even otherwise-respected publications goof up too. But I’m confident this is the right usage.


  2. Nauseous/Nauseated are really complementary 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hahahah! I am bookmarking this page! 😀


  4. aarthy1823 says:

    I have been using Nauseous/Nauseated interchangeably for a while!!
    Very interesting and useful post.


    • I’ve been similarly confused about lay/lie for a while now, Aarthy. I know it’s inexcusable that a writer should be confused about words, but hey, what to do? The language is such. (When in doubt, blame the language!)

      I’m glad you liked it 🙂


  5. Vishakha Khanolkar says:

    It gets on my nerves when people, while talking say ‘anyways’, instead of ‘anyway’. A highly common mistake. Moreover, how can there ever be ‘any ways’ for anything!


    • Hi Vishakha! Yes, that’s one of my pet peeves too. But I’m sure I have my own ticks when I’m speaking that I don’t notice. Writing is easier because we can go back and check for grammar and spelling. Thank God for the ‘edit’ functionality too, which I use quite a bit here on WordPress.

      Anyways, that’s how the world rolls 🙂 Thanks again for leaving a comment.


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