Categories: College Life

Commonly Misused Words To Avoid In Your Essays

Even though the main argument of your essay is the crux, the language in it is integral to conveying your ideas. Whenever you misuse a word, the reader is distracted from the overall quality of your essay. Your essay should flow effortlessly. Elevated language is acceptable as long as it doesn’t overshadow the argument. Elevated language is especially distracting when it’s used awkwardly or in the wrong context. Thus, it’s worth knowing the most commonly misused words. Without further ado, let’s get into it. 


Tortuous means having many twists and turns. Torturous mean of or related to torture.


nauseous means causing nausea. It does not describe the feeling of nausea itself.


Granted is often mixed with the word granite, especially in conversation.


Invaluable does not mean devoid of value. It means highly valuable.


Disinterested does not mean lacking interest. It means not biased.


Mortify does not mean to upset. Rather, it specifically means to humiliate.


Enormity does not mean prodigiousness. Rather, it is synonymous with evil.


I’m sure you already know this, but people often confuse this word with then.


This word means impressionistic or attempting to impress. It should not be used interchangeably with arrogant.


This word means to cite as evidence. It should not be confused with evoke.


If you don’t already know, this word isn’t spelt “old timers.”


Apprise has nothing to do with the word appraisal.


This word shouldn’t supplant the adverb well.


This word means able to be put into practice, not practical.


In order to refute an argument, you have to disprove it. You can’t simply argue against it.

New Age

This isn’t a single word, but nonetheless it’s commonly misused. The term new age is meant to describe a spiritual movement that is alternative. It should not be used interchangeably with modern.


This word means to forbid. Not to be confused with prescribe.


Sulky means gloomy and surly. It does not simply mean gloomy.


Prudish means disgusted by sexuality. A prude isn’t arrogant. They’re repulsed by anything remotely sexual.


An affinity is an attraction toward something or someone. It is not a synonym for proclivity.


Phenomena is a plural noun. If you’re wanting the singular form, use the word phenomenon.


Misnomer is not a synonym for mishap. A misnomer is specifically an error regarding the naming of something or someone.


circumvent does not simply mean to circle all the way around. Rather, it means to avoid by moving around.


Verbal means in linguistic form. It is not to be used synonymously with oral. Something that is verbal isn’t necessarily oral.


noisome means smelly. It does not mean noisy in spite of its resemblance with the word.


Ironic means oddly contradictory. Even though the two words are antonyms, all too often it is mixed up with the word coincidental.


Perpirating is not a word. Instead, use perspiring.


Fortuitous does not mean lucky. It means happening by chance.


Nonplussed mean bewildered. It does not mean unimpressed

For All Intents And Purposes

Again, this isn’t a single word, but it’s often misheard. The phrase is for all intents and purposes, not for all intensive purposes.


This word means superficially attractive but lacking in integrity or worth. It is not to be confused with meritorious.


Fascist means possessing autocratic and dictatorial rule.


This word is not to be confused with flaunt. It means to openly disregard.


Not to be confused with perspicacity, which means shrewdness. Pertinacity means holding firmly to an ideal.


This word means spirit. It is not to be confused with sole, which means only.


Typically when someone say hone in, they mean to say home in.


This word is not synonymous with feminine. It means exaggerated in manner. Many people associate it with gay men, thus, all too often it’s used interchangeably with feminine.

See Also


Fulsome means overly complimentary. It does not have anything to do with the word fool.

That Or Which

When this word introduces a relative clause, it always refers back to an inanimate object.

Who Or Whom

Conversely, when this word introduces a relative clause, it refers back to a person.


To abrogate means to repeal or to take back. Not to be confused with arrogate.


Arrogate means to seize or to claim.


This word does not mean eager. It means showing great conviction.


A respite is a state of rest. It is not simply a break.


Remonstrate is not synonymous with demonstrate. It means to make a forcefully reproachful protest.


Fugacious has nothing to do with the word fugazi. It means ephemeral or transient.


To give a compliment is to give praise. To complement is to add to something in a way that’s suitable.


Astrologers do study the stars just like astronomers. But astronomy is more based on empiricism.


Capricious means both moody and unpredictable. It does not just mean unpredictable


Irregardless, usually when people use irregardless, they’re meaning to say regardless. Irregardless is a word, but it’s informal and should never be used in an essay.


This is the English word for a verbal noun. It’s occasionally mixed up with the Latin grammatical term gerundive.


A conjunction is word that joins two independent clauses. It’s sometimes mixed up with the word contraction.


A contraction is one word that conjoins two with an apostrophe. For example, let’s is actually let us. Let’s is a contraction.


Sodomy can involve both anal and oral sex. It is not strictly a word for anal intercourse.


An expenditure has nothing to do with the amount of physical energy you expend.


To enervate means to drain of energy. It does not mean to energize.

It is worth noting that words have denotative and connotative meanings. Denotative meanings are strictly based on definition. Connotative meanings are based on connotation. Misused words have connotations that aren’t always encompassed in their definitions. With that, what are some commonly misused words I didn’t list? As always, comment down below.

Blake Dysinger

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