|Accede—verb—to agree or consent|
Ex: I accede to your request for help.
|Exceed—verb—to go over an expected limit|
Ex: If you exceed the speed limit, you may get a speeding ticket.
Ex: I would like to accept this award recognizing my community service.
|Except—preposition—not including, but|
Ex: Everyone was invited to the party except me.
|Advise—verb—to counsel or give advice|
Ex: I advise you to choose a career that you will enjoy.
|Advice—noun—a suggestion or opinion|
Ex: His advice was appreciated for being both wise and useful.
Ex: The long dark winter affects her mood, leading to seasonal depression.
Ex: The effect of her strict exercise routine was visible, and she gladly bought new clothes in a smaller size.
Ex: The medication had an adverse effect, making it difficult to concentrate.
|Averse—adjective—unwilling or hostile|
Ex: His averse attitude towards the proposal became evident when he voted against it in the session.
|All ready—phrase—two words meaning that everyone in the group is ready.|
Ex: We are all ready to leave for work.
|Already—adverb—by this time|
Ex: When we arrived at the concert, the first band had already begun to play.
|All right—adjective—satisfactory or acceptable|
Ex: Though it wasn’t the best meal ever, she said that dinner was all right.
|All right—adverb—performed in a satisfactory manner|
Ex: He was confident that he did all right on his exam today.
|All right—exclamation—indicated agreement or acceptance|
Ex: All right, I will go on a date with you!
Note: All right is an informal word in any usage. The variant spelling Alright is very informal to the point of slang. Neither is appropriate for academic writing.
|Altar—noun—ceremonial structure for worship|
Ex: The couple stood near the altar when they were married.
Ex: He altered the results of the test so that he appeared to have passed.
|Appraise—verb—to estimate value or worth|
Ex: He appraised the jewelry at close to a million dollars.
Ex: The employee apprised the manager of the situation with the upset customer.
|Ascent—noun—rise or going up|
Ex: The ascent to the top of the hill left her breathless.
Ex: He assented to her request, agreeing to adjust the agreement as needed.
Ex: He nodded to indicate his assent to her proposal.
Ex: I assure you that he will be on time to his appointment.
|Ensure—verb—to make certain|
Ex: In order to ensure his timely arrival to school, I walked my son to class.
|Insure—verb—to protect against loss|
Ex: There are many companies willing to insure your car against damage.
|Capital—noun—money / wealth or the location of the government buildings|
Ex: The governor had a lot of capital invested in his house in the capital city of Albany, New York.
|Capitol—noun—the building that houses the government|
Ex: The capitol building contained a museum and a gift shop as well as the government offices.
Ex: I enjoy eating cereal for breakfast.
|Serial—adjective—arranged in number order or sequence|
Ex: In order to replace the broken part, she needed the serial number for the washing machine.
Ex: You must always cite your sources when doing research.
Ex: The site of the new building was near a busy highway.
|Sight—noun—a view or to see|
Ex: The blind man had lost his sight in an accident.
Ex: His hands were coarse from a lifetime of working outdoors.
|Course—noun—a path or route|
Ex: The course for the race took the runners right through the middle of town.
|Course—noun—a part of a meal|
Ex: The second course included a salad.
|Course—noun—a step in a process|
Ex: The course of treatment, though effective in the long term, made him quite sick in the present time.
|Course—noun—a class in a formal setting|
Ex: He enrolled in a chemistry course during his first semester.
|Complement—noun—the thing that completes or makes up a whole or the thing that seems to go with something else|
Ex: Her shoes complemented her outfit since they were both the same color.
|Compliment—verb—to praise or flatter|
Ex: She accepted the compliment with grace.
|Conscience—noun—inner voice that advises about moral right and wrong|
Ex: If she had listened to her conscience, she probably would not be in trouble.
|Conscious—adjective—awake or aware, deliberate|
Ex: Though he had suffered a blow to the head, he was conscious enough to get a good look at his attacker. He made a conscious effort to remember the face.
Ex: The council decided to close the road for the duration of the construction.
|Counsel—verb—to give advice|
Ex: He counselled her to think carefully about her actions.
Ex: She considered the counsel of her teacher carefully.
|Desert—verb—to abandon or flee|
Ex: He deserted his wife when she needed him the most.
|Desert—noun—a dry, often sandy, location|
Ex: He made sure to bring plenty of water for his journey across the desert.
Ex: Though she was full from her meal, she still ordered dessert.
|Device—noun—invention or mechanism|
Ex: The device that allowed her to change the channels on the television had dead batteries.
|Devise—verb—to create or design|
Ex: He devised a plan for their escape from the dungeon.
|Disburse—verb—to pay out money|
Ex: He disbursed the payment to the workers every Friday.
|Disperse—verb—to scatter over a large area|
Ex: She dispersed the grass seed across the entire front yard.
|Elicit—verb—to evoke or draw out|
Ex: Her speech was designed to elicit an emotional response from the audience.
|Illicit—adjective—against laws, rules, or custom|
Ex: His illicit activities led to his eventual arrest, judgment, and prison term.
|Envelop—verb—to wrap around or conceal|
Ex: When they reunited at the airport, he enveloped her in a warm embrace.
|Envelope—noun—container for a written message|
Ex: I wrote the address on the front of the envelope.
|Every day—adverb—daily occurrence|
Ex: I get up early every day, even if I don’t have to go anywhere.
|Everyday—adjective—common, ordinary, routine|
Ex: She wore her everyday shoes to the store.
Note: If you can put the word single between every and day, you need the space between them. Ex: I get up every single day.
|Farther—adjective/adverb—the comparative form of far; that is, more physical distance than something else from the starting point|
Ex: Her new house is farther away than her old house, adding time to the commute.
|Further—adjective/adverb—in addition, more|
Ex: If you need further instructions, feel free to ask!
|Formally—adjective—in a formal or official manner|
Ex: I would like to formally request your presence at this event.
|Formerly—adverb—in the past, before|
Ex: Though they had formerly dated during high school, they had been separated for years now.
|Grate—noun—an opening covered by crossed bars|
Ex: He told her not to step on the grate because her high heels might get caught.
|Grate—verb—to break down into smaller pieces|
Ex: She grated the chunk of cheese into shredded cheese to melt on top of the pizza.
Ex: Her squeaky voice grated on his nerves.
|Great—adjective/adverb—above normal or average standards|
Ex: The day spent at Disney was a great experience.
Ex: They dug a hole in the ground for the new tree.
Ex: She stayed at his side the whole time he was sick.
|Imply—verb—to suggest indirectly|
Ex: Though she did not say anything, the disapproving expression on her face implied that she did not like his clothing.
|Infer—verb—to reach a conclusion|
Ex: From her disapproving glare, he inferred that he should change his clothing right away.
Note: A speaker will imply or suggest something; a listener will infer or understand something—and sometimes those two messages are not the same!
|Lean—verb—to rest against|
Ex: He leaned against the wall while waiting for the train.
|Lean—adjective—skinny, not fat|
Ex: He was surprised to see that the weight lifter was lean—he had expected a burly, muscle-bound woman, not this waif-like slip of a girl.
|Lien—noun—a legal right or claim to property|
Ex: When she bought the house, she didn’t know that there was a lien on the property; apparently, the previous owner had not paid the taxes on time.
Ex: Because he had caused the accident, he was liable for the cost of the repairs.
|Libel—noun—damaging written statement|
Ex: The newspaper was sued for libel after it printed a story that contained false information.
Note: Libel is written words that are harmful to a person’s character; slander is the verbal equivalent of the same action.
|Loose—adjective—not fastened or tied down|
Ex: His pockets jangled with the sound of loose change; combined with the loose waistband, he decided he would need a belt to hold his jeans in place.
Ex: I cannot believe you lost your car keys again!
|Minor—adjective—of smaller relative importance|
Ex: Compared to the accident, earthquake, and explosions that happened that morning, breaking her ankle while tripping in a pothole seemed a minor inconvenience.
|Minor—noun—an underage person|
Ex: Though she turned 18 in a few days, she was still considered a minor by the courts.
|Miner—noun—a person who works in a mine|
Ex: The miners worked diligently to pull the coal from the underground cave.
Ex: When the man started yelling at her, she took a deep breath and reminded herself to have patience.
|Patients—noun—people receiving medical attention|
Ex: The nurse turned his attention back to the list of patients; he had a lot of sick people to see this morning.
Ex: Her mind struggled with the luxury of a private jet, an aircraft specifically designed for her own individual use.
Ex: The CEO issued a memo instructing all personnel to attend a meeting in the afternoon.
|Plaintiff—noun—person who initiates a lawsuit|
Ex: The judge considered the plaintiff’s argument carefully before allowing the defendant to speak.
|Plaintive—adjective—showing suffering or discomfort|
Ex: The sick child let out a plaintive wail of unhappiness as she rubbed her stomach.
|Populous—adjective—densely populated or filled with many people|
Ex: Hong Kong is known for being populous, with residents living very close together in tall apartment buildings.
|Populace—noun—the general public or population of a place|
Ex: The populace showed up in large numbers on election day.
Ex: Before she could proceed with the exam, she had to fill out some paperwork first.
|Precede—verb—to go before|
Ex: The paperwork preceded the actual exam—and she was glad to have more time to relax while filling out forms before getting started officially.
|Precedence—noun—priority of importance, order, or rank|
Ex: In the emergency waiting room, the man with the heart attack took precedence over the boy with the sniffles.
|Precedents—noun—earlier events used as an example|
Ex: The Supreme Court’s decisions have set many precedents throughout history; these court cases will set the rules for similar cases in the future.
|Principal—adjective—main or most important|
Ex: Though she had learned many things on her trip, the principal lesson was never give her passport to anyone.
|Principal—noun—a person in charge of a K-12 school|
Ex: After the fight, the boy was sent to the principal’s office for his punishment.
|Principle—noun—a law or rule or guideline|
Ex: Though she wanted to forgive him for his mistakes, she was having difficulty—there were moral principles to consider!
Ex: Knowing how much she loved to write letters, he gave her a lovely stationery set for her birthday.
Ex: After a week on the sailboat, she found herself longing for a stationary pier that would not move with the motion of the waves.
Ex: Though she is the younger child, she is taller than her older brother by a few inches. He is faster than she is, though.
|Then—adverb—at that time|
Ex: First, we will go to breakfast, and then we can go to the store.
|Their—pronoun—possessive form of they|
Ex: The party was at their favorite restaurant. It was their 30th anniversary.
|There—adverb—at that place or point|
Ex: Everyone wanted to be there on time. There would be a brief performance at the start of the party.
|They’re—pronoun—contraction of they+are|
Ex: They’re so happy with one another; they’re a model of successful marriage for all of their friends.
|To—preposition—word before an infinitive|
Ex: He knew that in order to dance in the ballet, he needed to go to his lessons.
|Too—adverb—also or to an excessive amount|
Ex: She wanted to go too, but there were already too many people in the car.
Ex: The reservation was for two people.
|Waiver—noun—a release form|
Ex: In order to skydive, she had to sign a waiver stating that she would not sue the company.
|Waver—verb—to fluctuate or shake|
Ex: Though he could be persuasive, she resolved not to waver from her position.
What reference works can make word choice easier?
- Dictionary (electronic or paper): Each entry provides the word’s definition(s) and an explanation of the word’s usage. Careful consideration of a word’s meaning (its semantic connotation) and its context should guide decisions about the word’s appropriateness.
- Thesaurus (electronic or paper): Each entry provides a list of synonyms—words that have similar meanings. When a word does not fit the context as well as it should, but the general meaning should be preserved, a thesaurus can provide a synonym with a shade of meaning that is more suitable.