Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Usage: Words Often Confused. F. G. H.

Question: How can I clarify words that are frequently confused?

Answer: In this issue of "Q & A on Writing," I clarify the meanings of words beginning with F . G. and H: fewer/less; few who...; filet/fillet; flaunt/flout; foreword/forward; fulsome; farther/further; graduate; hanged/hung; help wondering...; home/hone; hopefully.

With each item, I attach a "Scale of Distraction," a measure of how many readers are likely to be distracted by mistakes.

* Who cares?
** Some people you respect will be distracted by the mistake.
*** Many educated people will be distracted by the mistake.

"Fewer" = people, things; "less" = things that cannot be counted. (***)

"One of the few who..." followed by a plural verb. (**)

"Filet" = French. "Fillet" = English. (*)

"Flaunt" = show off; "flout" = defy. (***)

"Foreword" = introduction to a book. Don't confuse with "forward." (***)

"Fulsome" means "offensive." (**)

"Farther" = distance; "further" = additional. (**)

"Graduate from..."; "...be graduated from..."; NEVER: "...graduated high school."

"Hanged" = people; "hung" = pictures. (***)

"...help wondering," NOT "...help but wonder." (**)

"Home in on a signal"; "hone" = sharpen. No "in." (**)

"Hopefully" = Use "I hope." My advice? Don't use "hopefully" in writing. Replace it with "I hope." Understanding when to use "hopefully" correctly is more trouble than it is worth. (**) If you use "hopefully" in speaking, (*).

All the best. RayS.

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