Common Errors in English Usage: Third Edition

By Paul Brians

The 3rd variation of universal mistakes in English utilization has been revised and accelerated by means of 20 percentage. It is still an invaluable and enjoyable consultant to mixed-up, mangled expressions, international language fake pas, complicated phrases, and normally mispronounced phrases.

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If you're still struggling, you're floundering. FLUKE A fluke was originally a lucky stroke in billiards, and it still means a fortunate chance event. It is nonstandard to use the word to label an unfortunate chance event. There are lucky flukes, but no unlucky ones. FLYS/FLIES "Flys" is a misspelling of "flies" except when the word is being deliberately changed from its traditional spelling as in the name of the popular music group, "The Flys. " FOCUS AROUND/FOCUS ON The popular expression "focus around" makes little sense. An example: "Next quarter's advertising will focus around our line of computer video games. " It is presumably meant to convey something like "concentrate on a number of different items in a single category. " But "focus on" better conveys the idea of a sharp focus. "Focus around" suggests a jittery, shifting view rather than determined concentration. FOLLOWUP/FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW­UP A doctor can follow up with a patient during a follow­up visit (note that the adjectival form requires a hyphen). Neither phrase should be turned into a single hyphenless word. FONT/TYPEFACE Although "font" has largely replaced "typeface" in common usage, professionals who deal with type prefer to distinguish between the two. "Typeface" refers to letter design; Times, Helvetica, and Garamond are all typefaces. Typefaces are usually made up of a number of fonts: complete sets of characters in that style, like Times Roman, Times Italic, and Times Bold. The distinction is important only when dealing with such professionals. FOOT/FEET You can use eight­foot boards to side a house, but "foot" is correct only in this sort of adjectival phrase combined with a number (and usually hyphenated). The boards are eight feet (not foot) long. it is always X feet per second and X feet away. FOOTNOTES/ENDNOTES About the time that computers began to make the creation and printing of footnotes extremely simple and cheap, style manuals began to urge a shift away from them to endnotes printed at the ends of chapters or at the end of a book or paper rather than at the foot of the page. I happen to think this was a big mistake; but in any case, if you are using endnotes, don't call them "footnotes. " FOR/FORE/FOUR The most common member of this trio is the preposition "for," which is not a problem for most people. "Fore" always has to do with the front of something (it's what you shout to warn someone when you've sent a golf ball their way). "Four" is just the number "4. " FOR ALL INTENSIVE PURPOSES/FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES Another example of the oral transformation of language by people who don't read much. "For all intents and purposes" is an old cliche which won't thrill anyone, but using the mistaken alternative is likely to elicit guffaws. FOR FREE/FREE Some people object to "for free" because any sentence containing the phrase will read just as well without the "for," but it is standard English. FOR GOODNESS' SAKES/FOR GOODNESS' SAKE Picky folks point out that since the mild expletive "for goodness' sake" is a eumphemism for "for God's sake" the second word should not be pluralized to "sakes"; but heavens to Betsy, if little things like that are going to bother you, you'll have your dander up all the time.

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