Commonly Misused Words – Learn to Use Them Correctly

Clearly, spell checkers are a valuable tool that you should use if you’re going to do any kind of writing. A great online spell checker can really clean up your blog post, email, article, etc before you send it out into the world. However, a spell checker can only do so much. A lot of times people think they’re having a problem with spelling, but the real problem is that they’re using the wrong word. One of our recent posts focused on easily confused words, but there are a lot more commonly misused words than we were able to cover in that post.  We’ll cover more of them here.

All Together vs. Altogether

commonly misused words
Image by Pierre Metivier
  • “Altogether” – This is the word that should be used when you’re talking about something in it’s entirely. “He was altogether pleased with the outcome of the meeting.”
  • “All together” – This is the phrase you should use when you’re talking about objects or people that are being treated as a group. “We’re going all together to the party tomorrow.”

E.g. vs. I.e.

These are two abbreviations that are always on the commonly misused words list, but they have different meanings.

  • g. – This is an abbreviation for the latin term “exempli gratia” and it means “for example”. “She was skilled at many different types of sports (e.g. basketball, softball, track, volleyball).”
  • e. – This is an abbreviation for “id est” and means “in other words”. “The best part of my day (i.e. seeing my dog get so excited when I come home) is something I look forward to the whole drive home.”

Past vs. Passed

These are two two misused words that are frequently confused because they are both related to the word “pass”. However, they are different versions of the word and have distinct meanings.

  • Past – This has two different meanings. It is used to refer to time that has gone by. It can also be used as a preposition for “beyond”. “That is a trend from the past decade that has come back into fashion.”
  • Passed – This is the past tense and past participle for the word “pass”. “I drove very carefully when I passed by the crash site.”

Precede vs. Proceed

These are two commonly misused words that people frequently mix up without being aware of it.

  • Precede – This means to come before. “The amazing throw from the quarterback preceded the catch that happened afterwards.”
  • Proceed – This means to move forward. “I proceeded through the stop light on my way to the appointment.”

Stationary vs. Stationery

There is only one letter difference in these words, but that letter completely changes the meaning of the word.

  • Stationary – This means in one place or unmoving. “The stationary bike is a great exercise tool.”
  • Stationery – This is related to writing materials. “He wrote the note on company stationery so that it would look more professional and official.”

There vs. They’re vs. Their

These three commonly misused words drive people crazy.  They’re a problem if you don’t know how to use them, and they drive people crazy when they do know how to use them, but see them misused so frequently.

  • There – This refers to a place. “Put the book you brought for me over there.”
  • They’re – This is the contraction for “they are”. “They’re standing over by the elevator waiting for you.”
  • Their – This is a possessive form. “It was their car that would take them to the concert.”

So, this is the correct usage of all three words.   “They’re all going to meet at the front gate for the event and will park their cars over there in the same parking garage so they can walk out together.”


Hopefully, by clearing up some of the commonly misused words, we’ve helped you use these words correctly.  Of course, you should still use a good spell checker program.  While some spell checkers can look at the context of the sentence to determine which word you wanted to use, there are so many commonly misused words out there that you shouldn’t count on the spell checker to catch all of them.