To this day, I feel my neck hairs bristle when a waiter asks if I'm "done." Although I inherited some of Grandmother's grammar snobbery, I still mess up. Recently a friend chastised me for misusing the word "anxious," as in, "I'm anxious to to win the lottery." "Anxious means worried," she pointed out, "eager means excited." Okay, so I was eager to win the lottery.
Her point was well taken, though, and it got me thinking about other confusing word pairs - words we use interchangeably that actually have different meanings. So I dug up some more tricky combos. Be wary of these when writing copy:
BECAUSE OF versus DUE TO
Use because of when you can restate to ask, "Why?" "The seminar was postponed because of the blizzard." Why was it postponed? Because of the blizzard.
Due to is used with a noun. "The cancellation was due to the blizzard."
COMPLEMENT versus COMPLIMENT
Complement means to "complete" or "enhance": That fuchsia dress complements your complexion nicely.
Compliment is something we all love: praise and flattery! "Thanks for complimenting me on my fuchsia dress."
Complimentary also means "free," as in "Call for your complimentary one-hour consultation."
FURTHER versus FARTHER
Choose farther when referring to physical distance: "Wow, the finish line is farther than I expected."
Further refers to figurative distance and can mean "moreover" or "in addition," e.g., "I'm too tired to make it to the finish line; further, my running shoes are killing me."
THAT versus WHICH
That is used with clauses that are essential to the sentence: "Writing is the aspect of marketing that I enjoy most."
Which is used with non-essential clauses and needs commas: "Writing, which I've enjoyed since I was a kid, is now my profession."
Now, you'll never be fooled by tricky word combinations again!