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Free Grammar HelpWordsMisused Words

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Below is a list of words that are commonly misspelled or otherwise abused. Some of them appear on other grammar pages on this site. Use the Question form to submit more.

Word

Common Mistake

defence, defense

Defence is British, therefore Canadian; defense is American.

defined as or defined by

Both can be grammatically correct, but they have different meanings.

"Defined as" precedes the definition. A triangle is defined as a three sided geometric figure.

"Defined by" is when we state the criteria for a definition. Geometric figures are defined by their number of sides.

ensure, insure, assure

Ensure is when you make sure of something. Assure is when you tell someone it's going to be OK. Many people also use insure, which also means to secure payment of a sum of money in the event of some kind of loss or injury, as a substitute for ensure; however, to be clear, use them with their correct meanings. Grammar Girl backs me up on this.

everyday or every day

everyday is an adjective: this is an everyday thing

But when you use "every" as the adjective for "day" then use them as two separate words: I do this every day.