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Grammar Nuggets: Confused? Let's Choose to Show We Chose the Right Word

Posted By Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grammar NuggetsI keep seeing the same mistakes over and over with misusing words that are similarly spelled or are forms of other words and cause confusion. I will try to make it more clear to make it easier to choose the right word.

Accept and Except—accept is to take or receive; except is to exclude.

§  She was able to accept the package for Jim. (She was able to RECEIVE the package.)

§  Everyone was invited except Joe. (Joe was EXCLUDED from the invitation.)


Affect and Effect—affect is to influence or to change; effect is the result or impression or to bring about.

§  The habit of coming in late had an affect on Sally's raise this year. (Sally's habit of coming in late INFLUENCED her raise.)

§  The effect of the rain was a beautiful rainbow and also several accidents on the rush hour drive home. (The beautiful rainbow and the accidents were the RESULT OF the rain.)


Choose and Chose—choose means to select; chose means you have already selected.

§  She will choose her car based on its color. (She will MAKE her selection of car based on color.)

§  She chose the red car. (She already MADE the selection of the red car.)


Ensure and Insure—ensure means to make certain; insure means to protect against loss.

§  He wanted to ensure the job was done correctly. (He wanted to MAKE CERTAIN the job was done correctly.)

§  She was able to insure her sports car. (She PROTECTED her sports car.)


Gibe and Jibe—gibe means a sarcastic remark or to scoff at; jibe means to agree.

§  The gibe about her hair color was hurtful. (The SARCASTIC REMARK about her hair color was hurtful.)

§  The figures did not jibe between the checking account and the accounting system. (The figures did not AGREE between the checking account and the accounting system.)


Its and It's—its is the possessive form of it; it's is the contraction for it is or it has. This is particularly confusing because most possessive forms use the apostrophe, but just remember if you cannot replace your word with “it is,” then you use “its.”

§  The dog chewed up its collar. (The collar BELONGED to the dog.)

§  It's the third collar they had to buy the puppy. (IT IS the third collar.)


Know and No—know means to understand; no means not any.

§  I now know the correct usage of it's. (I UNDERSTAND the correct usage of it's.)

§  He has no money to go on vacation. (He does NOT HAVE ANY money to go on vacation.)


Loose and Lose—loose means not bound or to release; lose means to suffer the loss of.

§  The dog got loose from its leash and ran out of the yard. (The dog is NOT BOUND by its leash.)

§  She was afraid she would lose her dog once it got loose. (Now that the dog is loose, she may SUFFER THE LOSS OF the dog if he does not come home.)


Their and There—their means belonging to them; there means in that place.

§  Their house is the nicest on the block. (The house BELONGING TO THEM is the nicest on the block.)

§  The car is there in the driveway. (The car is IN THAT PLACE in the driveway.)


Your and You're—your means that it belongs to you; you're is the contraction for “you are.” This one is misused by most of the people I see on Facebook who are teens or preteens and even some young adults and makes me question how they are teaching this in school.

§  I thought you said my phone was in your purse? (The purse BELONGS to you.)

§  You're going to the movies tonight, aren't you? (YOU ARE going to the movies.)


I hope some of the confusion is cleared up. If you would like a little extra reinforcement, take this quick quiz:

  1. He agreed to (accept, except) the award on behalf of his boss.
  2. Doing homework and studying hard had the (affect, effect) of getting an A in that class.
  3. He was ready to (choose, chose) the costume for the Halloween party.
  4. She worked hard to (ensure, insure) that the party would be a success.
  5. He was excited that the amount in his checkbook (gibed, jibed) with his bank statement.
  6. (It’s, Its) hard to be tolerant of mistakes in grammar.
  7. I (know, no) that if people would slow down, there would be fewer accidents.
  8. One person is required to (loose, lose) so another can win.
  9.  She sat (their, there) to be near her friends.
  10. (Your, You’re) car is a very nice ride.

Answers: 1. Accept, 2. Effect, 3. Choose, 4. Ensure, 5. Jibed, 6It’s, 7. Know, 8. Lose, 9. There, 10. Your

Kathy Sieckman, PP, PLS-SC, ACP, has been a member of NALS for over 30 years, is the current President of NALS of Phoenix, and is the Vice Chair of the NALS Editorial Board. Kathy is currently the Administrator-Arizona for Sacks, Ricketts & Case in Phoenix, Arizona. Kathy earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Legal Assisting (with distinction) from Phoenix College. In her spare time, when she is not spending time with her husband, two kids, and seven grandchildren or celebrating something with friends, Kathy writes a blog on proofreading tips at http://proofthatblog.com

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