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Vocabulary - SAT, TOEFL, GRE Test Preparation
3.28 Words and Expressions Commonly Misused - 4

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.

State: Not to be used as a mere substitute for say, remark. Restrict it to the sense of express fully or clearly, as, “He refused to state his objections.”

Student body: A needless and awkward expression, meaning no more than the simple word students.

Example:
A member of the student body
A student
Popular with the student body
Liked by the students
The student body passed resolutions.
The students passed resolutions.

System: Frequently used without need.

Example:
Dayton has adopted the commission system of government.
Dayton has adopted government by commission.
The dormitory system
Dormitories

Thanking you in advance: This sounds as if the writer meant, “It will not be worth my while to write to you again.” Simply write, “Thanking you,” and if the favor which you have requested is granted, write a letter of acknowledgment.

They: A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as each, each one, everybody, every one, many a man, which, though implying more than one person, requires the pronoun to be in the singular.

Similar to this, but with even less justification, is the use of the plural pronoun with the antecedent anybody, any one, somebody, some one, the intention being either to avoid the awkward “he or she,” or to avoid committing oneself to either. Some bashful speakers even say, “A friend of mine told me that they, etc.”

Very: Use this word sparingly. Where emphasis is necessary, use words strong in themselves.

Viewpoint: Write point of view, but do not misuse this, as many do, for view or opinion.

While: Avoid the indiscriminate use of this word for and, but, and although. Many writers use it frequently as a substitute for and or but, either from a mere desire to vary the connective, or from uncertainty which of the two connectives is the more appropriate. In this use it is best replaced by a semicolon. This is entirely correct, as shown by the paraphrase:

Example:
The office and salesrooms are on the ground floor, while the rest of the building is devoted to manufacturing.
The office and salesrooms are on the ground floor; the rest of the building is devoted to manufacturing.

Its use as a virtual equivalent of although is allowable in sentences where this leads to no ambiguity or absurdity:

Example:
While I admire his energy, I wish it were employed in a better cause.
I admire his energy; at the same time I wish it were employed in a better cause.

Compare:
While the temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime, the nights are often chilly.
Although the temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime, the nights are often chilly.

The paraphrase, "The temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime; at the same time the nights are often chilly," shows why the use of while is incorrect.

In general, the writer will do well to use while only with strict literalness, in the sense of during the time that.

Whom: Often incorrectly used for who before he said or similar expressions, when it is really the subject of a following verb.

Example:
His brother, whom he said would send him the money
His brother, who he said would send him the money
The man whom he thought was his friend
The man who (that) he thought was his friend (whom he thought his friend)

Worth while: Overworked as a term of vague approval and (with not) of disapproval. Strictly applicable only to actions: “Is it worth while to telegraph?”

Example:
His books are not worth while.
His books are not worth reading (not worth one’s while to read; do not repay reading).

The use of worth while before a noun (“a worth while story”) is indefensible.

Would: A conditional statement in the first person requires should, not would.

Example:
I should not have succeeded without his help.

The equivalent of shall in indirect quotation after a verb in the past tense is should, not would.

Example:
He predicted that before long we should have a great surprise.

To express habitual or repeated action, the past tense, without would, is usually sufficient, and from its brevity, more emphatic.

Example:
Once a year he would visit the old mansion.
Once a year he visited the old mansion.

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