In our last BLOG, you looked at the first category of confusing words – homonyms. If you are just tuning in and you are not sure what a homonym is, visit IWCC’s last BLOG entitled “Are you confused by confusing words?” You can find it on our website at: www.iwcctraining.com/blog.
In this second BLOG of our three-part confusing words series, we will look at words that sound similar but have completely different meanings, like: assure/ensure/insure. We will also explore some common phrases that can be confusing, such as: supposed to.
In our writing communications skills workshops, people often ask us to help them take the confusion out of words that sound similar. Here are a few words and phrases people often find confusing.
Why are these three words so difficult? They all have the same meaning: “to make sure or certain or to guarantee”. However, you will look less professional if you don’t use them in the right context. Here is some help:
Use assure when you refer to people. Use ensure when you want to guarantee something happens. Use insure when you want to protect something (usually financial). Here is a sentence to show the difference between these three words.
“I will assure our Director that our printing department can ensure we receive the pamphlets next week to help our new Customer Reps explain to clients all investments that can insure them from income loss in retirement.”
People often use good when they should use well and vice versa. So what is the difference? The grammatical explanation is that “well” is an adverb and therefore works with a verb. Good on the other hand, is an adjective and therefore works with a noun. As helpful as that may be to some folks who know their grammar, what about the rest of us!
Look at it this way…both words are describer words that provide detail. Use “well” when you want to describe how someone or something did what ever they are doing; use “good” when you want to describe someone or something. Here is an example of how to use both words in a sentence.
“Noah is a good auditor and therefore he performs audits well.”
Are you guilty of misusing these two words? Well, we want to keep you out of grammar jail…so here’s how to use these words properly. The grammatical explanation is to say that “affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. If that doesn’t help, here is a simpler explanation. Use “affect” when you are talking about action. In other words, when you want to produce a change, or influence something. On the other hand, use “effect “when you want to refer to a result or consequence. Here is a handy trick to help you remember: a is for action = affect and e is for end result = effect . To understand the difference in meaning, read the following sentence that uses both words.
"Extreme temperatures affect the quality of the drug and sometimes the overall effect results in lost product."
“Supposed to” versus Suppose
Do you get confused about “supposed to”, a phrase that confuses many writers? Well, be confused no more! When writing about something that is said/believed to be or is arranged, intended or expected, use “supposed to” in your sentence. And use “not supposed to” to suggest that something is not allowed or is prohibited. When you mean think, believe or imagine, use “suppose”. When we say the phrase “supposed to”, it often sounds like “suppose to”. You might be able to fool your listeners by slurring these phrases, but you can’t fool your readers. You either spell the phrase correctly…or not. Here is an example of how to use both words in a sentence.
"Suppose he does attend the training workshop and learns to operate the heavy equipment safely – the way he is supposed to operate it.
Here is one more…just for fun!"
Moot point OR Mute point
Is a “moot point” mute…not necessarily. Use this phrase when you want to say that a piece of information or an idea is of little or no practical value, has no meaning or is irrelevant. Some people use “moot point” to mean an argument that fades away and is never heard - hence the incorrect spelling “mute point”. But remember although a moot point has no meaning, it does have a voice…moot not mute. Let’s put these words in a sentence and see what happens.
"Following a successful demonstration of how the software works on our system, the IT Managers remained mute as they felt their concern about compatibility was now a moot point."