16/08/17 | By Krystina Kellingley

Copyeditors often come across commonly confused words. These can be because the author is genuinely confused or sometimes because of typing errors and they have been missed in the final edit. So be aware of the following:


Advice (noun). She needs advice about her financial position.

Advise (verb) is to offer a suggestion. I'd advise him not to proceed with the court case.


Accept (verb). To take or receive something that is offered. She refused to accept the gift.

Except (preposition). Not including. I've packed everything, except my toiletries.


Affect (verb). Influence. Being in love affects his judgement.

Effect (noun). His charm had no effect on me.

All together/altogether

All together means collectively.

Altogether (adverb). Entirely/completely.


Alter (verb) means to change

Altar (noun) is as table used in religious ceremonies.

Awhile/a while

Awhile is for a short time. Please stay awhile.

A while is a period of time. It has been a while since I visited home.


Breath (noun). Reference to the air you are taking in and exhaling out.

Breathe (verb). You are inhaling and exhaling air (an action).

Could have/Could of

Correct - could have

Incorrect – could of


Imply is to drop a hint (the speaker). Are you implying that I'm lying?

Infer is to make a guess (the listener). She inferred from what he said that he was lying.


'It's' is a contraction of 'it is' It is a shame you can't go. (It's a shame you can't go.)

'Its' is a possessive adjective. The dog wagged its tail. (The dog wagged it is tail would be incorrect)


Lead 1 (noun and rhymes with bed). A soft heavy metal. They had the lead pipes replaced with copper.

Lead 2 (verb and rhymes with bead). Being in charge or in a front position. I will lead the way.

Led (past tense of lead). She led the way home.


Lightning (atmospheric electricity). There was a flash of lightning.

Lightening is making something less dark. She is lightening her hair today.


Loose (not fixed). The chickens are loose in the garden.

Lose (to not have anymore). I'm trying to lose weight. Or Don't lose your keys.


Past (noun). In the past, she has been married twice.

Past (adjective). Summer had passed and it was now autumn.

Passed (past participle of the verb to pass). He passed his driving test. And She passed the church on her way home.


Sight (noun) is the power of seeing. His sight was impaired so he wore spectacles.

Site (noun) a place where  building work is going on or where a structure is situated or is to be situated. This is the site for our new house. Or a place where something took place. The site of the Battle of Waterloo. (But commonly incorrect is 'sight' when short for 'website'. It should be 'site'.


Then (subsequently or afterwards). She entered the house and then went straight to the kitchen.

Than (comparison). My house is bigger than your house.


There (a place). The shoes are over there.

Their (possessive, so it belongs to them). The two soldiers clicked their heels. (The heels belong to the soldiers).

They’re is a contraction of 'they are'. They are going shopping today. (They're going shopping today.)


‘Who’s’ is a contraction of 'who is'. Tom, who is a doctor, ran to help. (Tom who's a doctor ran to help).

Whose (belonging to or associated with which person). Whose dog is this?


Your is a possessive adjective, so it belongs to you. Is this your dog?

You're is a contraction of 'you are'. I am a doctor and you are a nurse. (I'm a doctor and you're a nurse.)


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