30 commonly confused words for jobs seekers to know

Some people are becoming more aware of their grammar, there are still words that can flub us often. Here is a list of 30 commonly confused words.

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Thanks to the efficiency of grammar and spelling tools today, it can be easy to let your writing skills slip a bit. And because many people have become reliant on word processing programs to do all the heavy lifting, they might not always give their documents the once-over they deserve. Unfortunately, this can spell disaster for job seekers—no pun intended.

Although some people are becoming more aware of their grammar, there are still words that can flub us from time to time. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 30 commonly confused words job seekers need to know.


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  1. Advice vs. Advise: Advice is a proposal for action. Advise is to offer suggestions, guidance, or counsel.
  2. Compliment vs. Complement: Compliment is a polite expression. Complement is to add to something as to complete it.
  3. Elicit vs. Illicit: Elicit is to evoke a response. Illicit is forbidden or illegal.
  4. Farther vs. Further: Farther is a greater distance. Further is to advance.
  5. i.e. vs. e.g.: i.e. means “it is,” while e.g. means “for example.”
  6. Imply vs. Infer: Imply is to suggest. Infer is to conclude.
  7. Insure vs. Ensure: Insure is to secure or protect. Ensure is to be certain of.
  8. It’s vs. Its: It’s is “it is.” Its is the possessive form of it.
  9. Loathe vs. Loath: Loathe is to dislike. Loath is to be reluctant.
  10. Principal vs. Principle: Principal is a lead or head of something. A principle is a rule of conduct.
  11. They’re vs. Their: They’re means “they are.” Their is the possessive of they.
  12. Who vs. That: Who references people. That references objects.
  13. Who’s vs. Whose: Who’s means “who is.” Whose is the possessive form of who.
  14. You’re vs. Your: You’re means “you are.” Your is the possessive form of you.
  15. Adverse vs. Averse: Adverse is harmful. Averse is to dislike strongly.
  16. Affect vs. Effect: Affect is an influence or feeling. Effect is the result of a change.
  17. Criteria vs. Criterion: Criteria are the basis for comparison in the plural form. Criterion is a singular (one) basis for comparison.
  18. Discreet vs. Discrete: Discreet is to be careful in action or speech. Discrete is to be individually separate.
  19. Formally vs. Formerly: Formally is official. Formerly is in the past.
  20. Me vs. I: “Me” is used when something is happening to yourself. “I” is used when you (the person) is doing something.
  21. Number vs. Amount: Number is a measurement. Amount is a size.
  22. Then vs. Than. Then can refer to a point in time, or it can mean “in addition to.” Than is used to compare two things.
  23. Loose vs. Lose. Lost weight? That’s great! Then your pants are probably loose. But to lose your pants means that your pants might be entirely too loose.
  24. Lay vs. Lie. When you lay something down, you’re putting it into a specific place. And when you want to go to bed after a rough day of job searching, you lie down. (And of course, as a verb, to lie is to not tell the truth!)
  25. To vs. Too. This is often one of the biggest spelling mistakes. “To” implies direction, while “too” means also.
  26. Stationary vs. Stationery. Stationary means not moving. Stationery, on the other hand, means paper that’s used for writing. If you’re mailing in your job application, your resume paper would probably be considered stationery.
  27. Empathy vs. Sympathy. Empathy is the ability to directly relate to someone’s feelings. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else.
  28. Uninterested vs. Disinterested. If you’re uninterested in a conversation you’re having, it means that you’re bored. If you’re disinterested, it connotes being impartial.
  29. Gray vs. Grey. While both spellings are correct, gray is the more commonly used spelling of the word in the U.S. Grey is used in British English.
  30. Lead vs. Led. Led is the past tense for lead (e.g., “I led a team of 10 people for over three years.”) Lead is a verb in the present tense that means to guide as a means of moving forward—except when it rhymes with the word “fed,” in which case lead is a heavy metal.

Sure, many of us can make minor mistakes in our writing from time to time. But for a job seeker, it can mean the difference between having your resume reviewed thoroughly or getting tossed in the trash. For job seekers and professionals alike, it’s important to check your social media profiles, resumes, cover letters, job applications, websites, and emails to ensure that your grammar, spelling, and word usage are all correct. That way, your application will reflect your professionalism and aptitude for the job—and not some silly spelling error.

This article originally appeared on Flexjobs.


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