I admit some of these still confuse me even though I’m a seasoned writer (nobody’s perfect:)), so don’t be afraid to refer back to this list during your writing to avoid making unnecessary mistakes.
Fewer than and Less than
Less is used for hypothetical quantities. E.g. “There are fewer than 30 children in my son’s class,” or “there are fewer seasonal fruits to choose from in winter.” On the other hand, less than is used for something that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural (e.g. money, time, air, rain, music.) E.g. “Susan eats less than me,” “It snowed less in Alaska this year.”
Affect and Effect
Once you learn the difference here, this one’s pretty easy. The key to remembering this one is that “affect” is almost always a verb (e.g., “The loud music affects my ears”) while “effect” is almost always a noun (e.g., “I love the effect that music has on my mood.”). While “affect” means to influence or create an impression, “effect” describes the result or the outcome.
Farther and Further
The word “farther” implies a measurable distance. “Further” should be reserved for abstract lengths you can’t always measure. e.g., I swam the ball fifty feet farther than Harry. e.g., The earthquake caused further implications.
Disinterested and Uninterested
Despite what most people think, these words are not synonymous. A “disinterested” person is someone who has an impartial perspective. For example, a judge or referee is disinterested because he or she is operating from a neutral perspective. If you want to write a sentence to imply that someone couldn’t care less, then the word you’ll want to use is “uninterested.”
Whether and If
“Whether” and “if” are NOT interchangeable, meaning you can’t replace one with the other. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives, while “if” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives available. E.g., I don’t know whether I’ll go to the party on Friday. e.g., I can’t go to the party on Friday if I don’t get paid in time.
Which words confuse you the most? Leave a comment below and let me know!