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Common grammatical errors


  • Abstruse / obtuse

Most people first encounter “obtuse” in geometry class, where it labels an angle of more than 90 degrees and less than 180. Imagine what sort of blunt arrowhead that kind of angle would make and you will understand why it also has a figurative meaning of “dull, stupid.” But people often mix the word up with “abstruse,” which means “difficult to understand.”

When you mean to criticise something for being needlessly complex or baffling, the word you need is not “obtuse,” but “abstruse.”


  • Lose / Loose

This confusion can easily be avoided if you pronounce the word intended aloud. If it has a voiced Z sound, then it’s “lose.” If it has a hissy S sound, then it’s “loose.” Here are examples of correct usage: “He tends to lose his keys.” “She lets her dog run loose.” Note that when “lose” turns into “losing” it loses its “E.”


  • Everyday

“Everyday” is a perfectly good adjective, as in “I’m most comfortable in my everyday clothes.” The problem comes when people turn the adverbial phrase “every day” into a single word. It is incorrect to write “I take a shower everyday.” It should be “I take a shower every day.”


  • Disinterested / Uninterested

A bored person is uninterested. Do not confuse this word with the much rarer disinterested, which means “objective, neutral.”

Source: Common Errors in English Usage


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