The Editor’s Corner: Commonly Confused Words*

By:    |   Published April 4


When the editors at Dog Ear Publishing comb through a manuscript, they look for everything from spelling slip-ups to grammar gaffes. Below is a list of some of the most commonly confused words they see, along with examples of how to use each word correctly.

  1. It’s vs. Its
    1. It’s is a contraction meaning “it is.”
      • It’s always windy this time of year.
      • She said, “It looks like it’s going to snow.”
    2. Its means “relating to or belonging to a certain thing, animal, etc.”
      • Its coat grows thicker in winter.
      • Sticking its nose out of the den, the fox caught the scent of its dinner nearby.
  2. You’re vs. Your
    1. You’re is a contraction meaning “you are.”
      • You’re going to choose the music for the party.
      • Do you know where you’re going to get the cake?
    2. Your means “relating to or belonging to you.”
      • The party is going to be at your house.
      • Did you move your furniture to make room?
  3. Their vs. They’re vs. There
    1. Their means “relating to or belonging to certain people, animals, or things.”
      • Their car sped down the empty highway.
      • The scenery flew by their windows.
    2. They’re is a contraction meaning “they are.”
      • They’re going to get pulled over.
      • Do they even know the exit number they’re looking for?
    3. There means “in that place” or “at that location.”
      • Pull the car over there.
      • See that policeman? The one over there?
  4. Advice vs. Advise
    1. Advice is a noun and means “an opinion or suggestion.”
      • The girl needed advice on how to deal with her boss.
      • Advice might give her another point of view.
    2. Advise is a verb and means “to give an opinion or suggestion.”
      • Her mother advised her daughter to be flexible but firm.
      • The advisor listened closely before answering.
  5. Pour vs. Pore
    1. Pour means “to cause (something) to flow in a steady stream from or into a container or place.”
      • The waitress started pouring cups of coffee.
      • It was pouring rain outside, which always brought in more customers.
    2. Pore means “to gaze intently.”
      • He pored over the faded letters until his eyes ached.
      • She pored over the study questions, hoping for a miracle.
  6. Farther vs. Further
    1. Farther means “to a more distant place or time.”
      • He traveled farther than expected.
      • The path led farther and farther into the woods.
    2. Further is used to refer to depth, as in conversation or contemplation.
      • Her professor told her to delve further into the idea.
      • If she looked further into the issue, she would find the answer.
  7. Capitol vs. Capital
    1. A capitol is the building in which the people who make the laws meet.
      • The US Capitol building is also called Capitol Hill.
      • Congress holds sessions in the Capitol building.
    2. Capital refers to the city that has the main offices of a government.
      • Washington, DC, is the capital of the United States.
      • Nashville is the capital of Tennessee.
  8. Past vs. Passed
    1. Past means “having existed in a time before the present.”
      • She thought she might have been a butterfly in a past life.
      • Moving past the boxes of doughnuts, he realized how hungry he was.
    2. Passed means “to move beyond someone or something.”
      • She passed the old woman without so much as a glance.
      • As the bus passed by, he could hear the sound of laughing children.
  9. Awhile vs. A while
    1. Awhile is an adverb meaning “for a short time.”
      • Stay with us awhile.
      • Go dance awhile.
    2. A while is a noun and is typically used with a preposition.
      • She hadn’t seen him in a while.
      • They sat for a while before continuing.

Word usage can be confusing, and no one understands that better than our editors. Luckily, they are also experts at the particulars and can whip your manuscript into shape in no time! Good luck, and good writing!

*All definitions come from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, with emphasis added.