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Vocabulary - SAT, TOEFL, GRE Test Preparation
3.27 Words and Expressions Commonly Misused - 3

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.

Most: Not to be used for almost.

Wrong: Most everybody
Right: Almost everybody
Wrong: Most all the time
Right: Almost all the time

Nature: Often simply redundant, used like character.

Wrong: Acts of a hostile nature
Right: Hostile acts

Often vaguely used in such expressions as “a lover of nature;” or “poems about nature.” Unless more specific statements follow, the reader cannot tell whether the poems have to do with natural scenery, rural life, the sunset, the untracked wilderness, or the habits of squirrels.

Near by: Adverbial phrase, not yet fully accepted as good English, though the analogy of close by and hard by seems to justify it. Near, or near at hand, is as good, if not better. Not to be used as an adjective; use neighboring.

Oftentimes, ofttimes: Archaic forms, no longer in good use. The modern word is 'often'.

One hundred and one: Retain the and in this and similar expressions, in accordance with the unvarying usage of English prose from Old English times.

One of the most: Avoid beginning essays or paragraphs with this formula:

“One of the most interesting developments of modern science is, etc.;”
“Switzerland is one of the most interesting countries of Europe.”

There is nothing wrong in this; it is simply threadbare and forcible-feeble.

People: The people is a political term, not to be confused with the public. From the people comes political support or opposition; from the public comes artistic appreciation or commercial patronage.

The word 'people' is not to be used with words of number, in place of persons. If of “six people” five went away, how many “people” would be left?

Phase: Means a stage of transition or development:

“the phases of the moon;”
“the last phase.”

Not to be used for aspect or topic:

Wrong: Another phase of the subject
Right: Another point (another question)

Possess: Not to be used as a mere substitute for have or own.

Wrong: He possessed great courage.
Right: He had great courage (was very brave).
Wrong: He was the fortunate possessor of
Right: He owned

Respective, respectively: These words may usually be omitted with advantage.

Wrong: Works of fiction are listed under the names of their respective authors.
Right: Works of fiction are listed under the names of their authors.
Wrong: The one mile and two mile runs were won by Jones and Cummings respectively.
Right: The one mile and two mile runs were won by Jones and by Cummings.

In some kinds of formal writing, as in geometrical proofs, it may be necessary to use 'respectively', but it should not appear in writing on ordinary subjects.

So: Avoid, in writing, the use of so as an intensifier:

“so good;”
“so warm;”
“so delightful.”

Sort 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:

“Amber is one sort of fossil resin;”
“I dislike that sort of notoriety.”

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