Word Choice Errors : A Descriptive Linguistics Approach book cover
1st Edition

Word Choice Errors
A Descriptive Linguistics Approach

ISBN 9780367203955
Published August 14, 2019 by Routledge
214 Pages

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Book Description

American English has many word pairs and trios that are alike enough to be confusing. Word Choice Errors provides a novel way to empower writers of all levels to cut through the confusion to understand which word to use and why that’s the word to use. Written in a user-friendly style, grounded in descriptive linguistics methods, and eschewing memorization, this book trains writers to detect, interpret, and act on language clues – with exercises, "wild idea" analytical tricks, and additional resources throughout. It is an excellent resource for instructors and students of grammar or writing/rhetoric, as well as for individuals looking to develop their language and writing skills.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1. Introduction: Inaccurate Word Choices and Linguistic Criteria

1.1. Morpho-Syntactic Criterion

1.2. Syntactic Criterion

1.3. Semantic Criterion

Review Exercises: Linguistic Criteria

Chapter 1 Recap


Chapter 2. Commonly Confused Words: Affect/Effect – Cue/Queue

2.1. Affect/Effect

2.2. Allude/Elude

2.3. Breach/Breech

2.4. Cache/Cachet

2.5. Capital/Capitol

2.6. Censor/Censure/Sensor

2.7. Cite/Sight/Site

2.8. Colombia/Columbia

2.9. Complement/Compliment

2.10. Confident/Confidant/Confidante

2.11. Conscience/Conscientious/Conscious/Consciousness

2.12. Cue/Queue

Review Exercises: Affect/Effect – Cue/Queue

Chapter 2 Recap

Lesson Learned


Chapter 3. Commonly Confused Words: e .g./i.e – Hail/Hale

3.1. e.g./i.e.

3.2. Either … or/Neither … nor

3.3. Elicit/Illicit

3.4. Emulate/Imitate

3.5. Emigrate/Immigrate/Migrate

3.6. Ensure/Insure/Assure

3.7. Envelop/Envelope

3.8. Everyone/Every one

3.9. Farther/Further

3.10. Gild/Guild

3.11. Grill/Grille

3.12. Hail/Hale

Review Exercises: i.e./e.g. – Hail/Hale

Chapter 3 Recap

Lessons Learned


Chapter 4. Commonly Confused Words: It’s/Its – Right/Rite/Write

4.1. It’s/Its

4.2. Lay/Lie

4.3. Less/Fewer

4.4. Let’s/Lets

4.5. Loose/Lose

4.6. Moral/Morale

4.7. Onto/On to

4.8. Quiet/Quite

4.9 Principal/Principle

4.10. Raise/Raze

4.11. Rational/Rationale

4.12. Right/Rite/Write

Review Exercises: It’s/Its – Right/Right/Rite

Chapter 4 Recap

Lesson Learned


Chapter 5. Commonly Confused Words: Setup/Set up – Your/You’re

5.1. Setup/Set up

5.2. Shear/Sheer

5.3. Sic/Sick

5.4. Their/There/They’re

5.5. Than/Then

5.6. To/Too/Two

5.7. Vain/Vane/Vein

5.8. Well/Good

5.9. Weather/Whether

5.10. Were/We’re/Where

5.11. Wet/Whet

5.12. Which/Witch

5.13. Whose/Who’s

5.14. Your/You’re

Review Exercises: Setup/Set up – Your/You’re

Chapter 5 Recap

Lesson Learned


Chapter 6. Cumulative Application

Summary Points


Chapter 7. Conclusion


Answer Key for Fill-in-the-Blank Exercises


Consulted Works





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Gülşat Aygen is Professor of Linguistics and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at Northern Illinois University, USA.

Sarah Eastlund is Assistant Professor of English at Brescia University, USA.


"This unique book systematically guides students through structural, semantic, and strategic criteria to help them distinguish such difficult pairs as affect/effect, principal/principle, farther/further. Simultaneously, students learn the basics of structural linguistics. Copious exercises and other mnemonics facilitate internalization of the targeted distinctions."

D. Gary Miller, University of Colorado Boulder, USA.

"Language learners are often told just to memorize words from the dictionary, but that makes language look like a mess of irregular and arbitrary words. Aygen and Eastlund identify common errors and explain how linguistic form, meaning, and structure can be used to correct these mistakes. This book provides advanced English learners with the tools they need to figure out the regularities of language, giving them practice at linguistic skills to make their own linguistic generalizations. Aygen and Eastlund have created a very useful text, full of exercises which clearly test progress. It's an incredible resource for both learners and teachers."

Claire Bowern, Yale University, USA.

"Teachers of writing most often focus on such global concerns as organization, development, and coherence. At the same time, learners, especially English learners, can concern themselves with making appropriate choices at the word level. An instructor’s prescriptive approach offers general rules and sometimes admonishments. As a wise alternative, Aygen and Eastlund, in their Word Choice Errors: A Descriptive Linguistics Approach, show students how to interrogate errors to understand their causes and then devise practices that will help them to become more precise and confident writers. This useful book helps emerging writers to make choices based on linguistic principles and not based on recall of prescriptions nor intuition." 

Thomas M. McCann, Northern Illinois University, USA.