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Vocabulary - SAT, TOEFL, GRE Test Preparation
3.26 Words and Expressions Commonly Misused - 2

Directions: Review the following words and expressions commonly misused. For each of these words and expressions, write example sentences to show incorrect and correct usage.
Many of the words and expressions here listed are not so much bad English as bad style, the commonplaces of careless writing. The proper correction is likely to be not the replacement of one word or set of words by another, but the replacement of vague generality by definite statement.

Dependable: A needless substitute for reliable, trustworthy.

Due to: Incorrectly used for through, because of, or owing to, in adverbial phrases:
Example:
“He lost the first game, due to carelessness.”

Incorrect use related as predicate or as modifier to a particular noun:
Example:
“This invention is due to Edison;”
“losses due to preventable fires.”

Effect: As noun, means result; as a verb, means to bring about, accomplish (not to be confused with affect, which means “to influence”). As noun, often loosely used in perfunctory writing about fashions, music, painting, and other arts:
Example:
“an Oriental effect;”
“effects in pale green;”
“very delicate effects;”
“broad effects;”
“subtle effects;”
“a charming effect was produced by.”

The writer who has a definite meaning to express will not take refuge in such vagueness.

Etc: Not to be used of persons. Equivalent to and the rest, and so forth, and hence not to be used if one of these would be insufficient, that is, if the reader would be left in doubt as to any important particulars. Least open to objection when it represents the last terms of a list already given in full, or immaterial words at the end of a quotation.

At the end of a list introduced by such as, for example, or any similar expression, etc. is incorrect.

Fact: Use this word only of matters of a kind capable of direct verification, not of matters of judgment. That a particular event happened on a given date, that lead melts at a certain temperature, are facts. But such conclusions as that Napoleon was the greatest of modern generals, or that the climate of California is delightful, however incontestable they may be, are not properly facts.

Factor: A hackneyed word; the expressions of which it forms part can usually be replaced by something more direct and idiomatic.
Example:
His superior training was the great factor in his winning the match.
He won the match by being better trained.
Heavy artillery is becoming an increasingly important factor in deciding battles.
Heavy artillery is playing a larger and larger part in deciding battles.

Feature: Another hackneyed word; like factor, it usually adds nothing to the sentence in which it occurs.
Example:
A feature of the entertainment especially worthy of mention was the singing of Miss A. (Better use the same number of words to tell what Miss A. sang, or if the program has already been given, to tell something of how she sang.)
As a verb, in the advertising sense of offer as a special attraction, to be avoided.

Fix: Colloquial in America for arrange, prepare, mend. In writing, restrict it to its literary senses, fasten, make firm or immovable, etc.

He is a man who: A common type of redundant expression:
Example:
He is a man who is very ambitious.
He is very ambitious.
Spain is a country which I have always wanted to visit.
I have always wanted to visit Spain.

However: In the meaning 'nevertheless', not to come first in its sentence or clause.
Example:
The roads were almost impassable. However, we at last succeeded in reaching camp.
The roads were almost impassable. At last, however, we succeeded in reaching camp.

When however comes first, it means in whatever way or to whatever extent.
Example:
However you advise him, he will probably do as he thinks best.
However discouraging the prospect, he never lost heart.

Kind of: Not to be used as a substitute for rather (before adjectives and verbs), or except in familiar style, for something like (before nouns). Restrict it to its literal sense:
Example:
“Amber is a kind of fossil resin;”
“I dislike that kind of notoriety.”
The same holds true of sort of.

Less: Should not be misused for fewer.
Example:
He had less men than in the previous campaign.
He had fewer men than in the previous campaign.

Less refers to quantity, fewer to number. “His troubles are less than mine” means “His troubles are not so great as mine.” “His troubles are fewer than mine” means “His troubles are not so numerous as mine.” It is, however, correct to say, “The signers of the petition were less than a hundred, “where the round number, a hundred, is something like a collective noun, and less is thought of as meaning a less quantity or amount.

Line, along these lines: Line in the sense of course of procedure, conduct, thought, is allowable, but has been so much overworked, particularly in the phrase along these lines, that a writer who aims at freshness or originality had better discard it entirely.
Example:
Mr. B. also spoke along the same lines.
Mr. B. also spoke, to the same effect.
He is studying along the line of French literature.
He is studying French literature.

Literal, literally: Often incorrectly used in support of exaggeration or violent metaphor.
Example:
A literal flood of abuse
A flood of abuse
Literally dead with fatigue
Almost dead with fatigue
(dead tired)

Lose out: Meant to be more emphatic than lose, but actually less so, because of its commonness. The same holds true of try out, win out, sign up, register up. With a number of verbs, out and up form idiomatic combinations: find out, run out, turn out, cheer up, dry up, make up, and others, each distinguishable in meaning from the simple verb. Lose out is not.


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