Resources for Diction
Rules for Diction
1. A--used before words and letters with an initial consonant sound
Examples: a CPA, a historical event
2. An--used before words and letters with an initial vowel sound
Examples: an MBA, an honorable man
3. Alot--incorrect spelling for a lot
4. Accept--verb: to take
Example: I graciously accept your invitation.
5. Except--verb: to omit; preposition: but
Example: Mothers of small children are excepted from jury duty.
Example: Everyone was excused except Joe and me.
6. Advice--noun (ending pronounced "ice")
Example: Most good advice falls on deaf ears.
7. Advise--verb (rhymes with devise)
Example: The protestors were advised to submit a list of their grievances.
8. Affect--verb: to influence
Example: The noise affects my concentration.
9. Effect--noun: result; verb: to bring about
Example: His speech had a positive effect on me.
Example: The President has effected a new tax law.
10. Alright--incorrect spelling for all right
11. Almost--adverb meaning "nearly"; adjective or pronoun meaning "some" or "many"
Example: We sold almost all the tickets.
12. Most--adjective or pronoun
Example: We sold most of the tickets.
13. Among--used for relationships involving MORE THAN TWO people or things
Example: There is a silent closeness among the family members.
14. Between--used for relationships involving ONLY TWO people or things
Example: Lois and Hattie had only fifty cents between them.
15. Amount--used with singular (mass) nouns (see less)
Examples: amount of work, amount of credit
16. Number--used with plural (countable) nouns (see fewer)
Examples: number of classes, number of mistakes
17. As, as if, as though--used before clauses (see like)
Example: It looks as if (not like) it's going to rain.
Example: He acts as though (not like) he has Alzheimer's disease.
18. Be sure and--misused for be sure to
19. Try and--misused for try to
20. Could of--misused for could have
21. Should of--misused for should have/ might of--misused for might have/ would of--misused for would have
22. Different than--used only when a clause follows
Example: The old plantation is different than it used to be.
23. Different from--used always except when a clause follows
Example: Her hairdo is different from yours.
24. Due to--used to introduce adjective phrases; means "caused by"
Example: His mistakes were due to carelessness.
25. Because of--used to introduce adverb phrases; means "as a result of"
Example: He was dismissed because of his dishonesty.
26. Due to the fact that--misused and wordy for because
27. Enthuse/enthused--colloquialisms for enthusiastic
28. Fewer--used with countable nouns (see number)
Examples: fewer cigarettes, fewer people
29. Less--used with mass nouns or general amounts (see amount)
Examples: less time, less money
30. Hopefully--used as an adverb meaning "in a hopeful manner," not as a sentence modifier
Example: The children waited hopefully for the packages to arrive.
WRONG: Hopefully, the team will win.
NOTE: Hopefully is usually misused when placed at the beginning of a sentence.
31. Irregardless--misused for regardless
32. Is when/is where--should not be used to introduce an explanation or a definition
WRONG: Plagiarism is when a writer presents the thoughts and ideas of another author as his own.
Correction: Plagiarism occurs when a writer presents the thoughts and ideas of another author as his own.
33. Kind of/sort of--correctly used preceding nouns, not adjectives
Example: I enjoy reading this kind of magazine.
WRONG: The movie was kind of boring.
Correction: The movie was rather boring.
34. Lead & led--Lead (pronounced "leed") means "to go first." Its principal parts are lead, leads, leading, led (rhymes with red), and (have) led.
Example: Priests lead lives of celibacy.
Example: The man led a life of celibacy before he became a priest.
NOTE: The homonym for led is a noun.
Example: The lead in this pencil is broken.
35. Lend--verb: to allow the use of (lending, lent, [have] lent)
Example: The credit union lends (not loans) money to members only.
Example: I lent (not loaned) my book to her last week.
36. Loan--noun: something lent for temporary use
Example: I need to establish credit so that I can be eligible for a loan.
37. Lie--verb: to rest or recline (lying, lay, [have] lain)
Example: I lie on the couch every day.
Example: I lay on the couch for hours yesterday.
Example: The sweater is still lying on the couch.
38. Lay--verb: to put or place (laying, laid, [have] laid)
Example: Where did he lay my brush?
Example: I must have laid it down somewhere yesterday.
Example: I'm always laying things down and forgetting where I laid them.
39. Like--preposition used to introduce a phrase, not a clause (see as, as if, and as though)
Example: His features are unique like a fingerprint.
Example: It looks like rain.
40. Principal--noun: chief official; adjective: foremost, major Principle--noun: axiom, rule
Example: Her principal reasons for resigning were her principles of right and wrong.
41. Reason is because/reason was because--misused for reason is that/reason was that
Example: The reason he was promoted is that (not is because) he worked exceptionally hard.
42. Rise--verb: to go up (rising, rose, [have] risen)
Example: She must rise early in the morning to get to work on time.
43. Raise--verb: to push up (raising, raised, [have] raised)
Example: The landlord must raise the rent to cover an increase in taxes.
44. Sit--verb: to be seated (sitting, sat, [have] sat)
Example: Good students usually sit on the front row.
45. Set--verb: to put, to place (setting, set, [have] set)
Example: Please set the paperwork on my desk.
Example: Try to set a positive example for young people to follow.
46. Suppose to/use to--incorrect spellings for supposed to and used to
Example: Amy is a better tennis player than I. Then--adverb of time (often misused for than)
Example: The cashier rang up our sale; then he gave us our change.