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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

illusive or elusive

Illusive means deceptive. Elusive means hard to find.

Bob is illusive; don't trust him—he always lies.

Joe is elusive; I can't find him anywhere—but he's honest.

its, it's & its'

also see apostrophe page

Let's be clear about this:

it's = it is

its = possessive of it

its' = NEVER USED IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE!!!

The grammatical use of its or it's is one of the most common search terms in grammar on the internet. Clearly many people are still struggling with it.

Try it! Enter "its" or "it's" in the field for each sentence.

Clearly, important to know the apostrophe and uses.

So I told her, none of your business!

The migrating goose lost way.

According to our teacher, time for another grammar test.

jargon

It's not a word that's misused, but it's a terribly common writing fault. Sometimes terms specific to certain disciplines are needed to make the meaning clear. For example, you can't write a paper on Post-Modern literary theory without discussing deconstructionism, but don't use esoteric language solely for the onanistic pleasure of discourse, as it is ultimately exclusionary and may engender redundant pleonasms. There's fine balance between using a rich vocabulary and showing off your knowledge of obscure words. Being able to walk this tightrope is one of the signs of a skilled writer.

judgement or judgment

Both are correct, but judgment is preferred. This is probably another to set off a controversy, but according to Dictionary.com, it's not a question of British vs. U.S., even the Brits prefer the shorter form. Nonetheless, both forms are acceptable, so don't let any grammar pedants ruin your day. Spell it as you like.

lets vs. let's

Both are right in the right context; however, they are not the same and can't be swapped

Let's is an abbreviation for "let us"; We use it as an invitation: Let's go to the beach; Let's get married; Let's blow this popsicle stand.

Lets is the third person singular form of the verb "let". (See verb tenses). My mother lets me go to the store. My boss lets me have Fridays off. My government lets me say whatever I want. Remember: verbs only use apostrophe in abbreviations, never to form third person singulars.

likelihood

one word, sometimes misspelled
"likely hood"