grammar

50 Problem Words and Phrases

DailyWritingTips

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive written communication. So many pairs or trios of words and phrases stymie us with their resemblance to each other. Here’s a quick guide to alleviate (or is it ameliorate?) your suffering:

  1. a while / awhile: “A while” is a noun phrase; awhile is an adverb.
  2. all together / altogether: All together now — “We will refrain from using that two-word phrase to end sentences like this one altogether.”
  3. amend / emend: To amend is to change; to emend is to correct.
  4. amount / number: Amount refers to a mass (“The amount saved is considerable”); number refers to a quantity (“The number of dollars saved is considerable”).
  5. between / among: The distinction is not whether you refer to two people or things or to three or more; it’s whether you refer to one thing and another or to a collective or undefined number — “Walk among the trees,” but “Walk between two trees.”

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