English is a very rich language with many more words than most languages have – however, even with so many words to choose from there are many instances where one or more sound the same, but mean something different. Here are the most common words that are misused.

Complimentary – when someone has said something nice about you OR a free gift or service.

  • ‘He was very complimentary about her dress.’
  • ‘There’s a complimentary book for everyone who attends the workshop.’

Complementary – something that comes together with another item to make a whole, the other part of something.

  • ‘The two businesses were complementary, bringing together services that offered their clients a much wider selection of options.’

Lose – mislay; the opposite of found

  • ‘If you lose track of the presentation there are notes that will help you to catch up.’

Loose – able to move about; the opposite of tight

  • ‘Now he has lost a lot of weight all his clothes are loose.’

Affect – Verb; to take on the attitude or character of something.

  • ‘He is affected by watching football, he gets very excited.’

Effect – noun; the result of something happening;

  • ‘Winning the award had a big effect on him.’

Verb; to carry out.

  • ‘She effected massive change in the department.’

Your – belonging to

  • ‘Is that your bag?’

You’re – contraction of ‘you are’;

  • ‘I hope you’re well.’

There – that place

  • ‘Put the parcel over there.’

Their – belonging to them

  • ‘Their feet hurt after such a long walk.’

They’re – contraction of ‘they are’

  • ‘They’re very late; do you think something has happened to them?’

Discrete – separate, unconnected.

  • ‘The two projects were discrete.’

Discreet – Being able to keep something quiet, subtle, unlikely to gossip.

  • ‘Can we trust him to be discreet?’

Choosing the wrong word can impact on your reader’s opinion of your ability to deliver good quality services. It can also distract the reader from what you are trying to say as they start thinking about the fact that you have made an error instead of concentrating on your message.

If in doubt, check it out – use a dictionary – I do this all the time!
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