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Word Usage in Writing

Updated on November 06, 2016
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Words To Use
Words To Use

Many words in the English language have similar but not identical meanings. As writers we need to take care in their use in order to make sure of the precision of those impressions we wish to impart.


For some of these words, the differences can prove difficult to perceive. Nevertheless, the writer aspiring for exactitude in his or her writings needs to distinguish between the different shades of meanings of words in order to make sure those used in an article or story moves the work forward in logical, connected steps and to sustain reader credibility. To this end, beginning writers and professional authors alike need to maintain a reasonably close relationship with a good dictionary or thesaurus. Nowadays, when many writers depend upon online research by way of the Internet, bookmarking an online dictionary makes good sense.


Words wrongly used can cause a reader to misinterpret the content of an article to such a degree that the work confuses more than it enlightens. In a work of fiction, words used incorrectly easily can produce an erroneous interpretation of events so that the outcome of the story remains unclear or misleading. The writer cannot assume, or take for granted, that the storyline will survive the possible misdirection inappropriate words may bring about.

A number of words in common use, similar in sound or spelling, have different meanings.


As an example of the foregoing, a comprehensive analysis of the word "assume" in the previous paragraph may prove instructive. The word assume itself often collides with presume in writings. The seemingly miniscule differences in definitions between these two words easily can escape recognition by a writer. The following definitions of these two words as well as a few examples in writing will help illustrate the concept.

Definitions for assume (v): To take for granted, to suppose, to accept as true

Definitions for presume (v): To expect, to believe, to behave with overconfidence.

Examples in writing

Assume: "He learned never to assume intent by a person's facial expression." "We have an appointment, so I assume I will see him at lunch." "Do not assume the amount of your inheritance until after the reading of your uncle's will." "Let us assume you are correct in this matter."

Presume: "Having found the boat adrift and unoccupied he felt it safe to presume she had drowned." "You have been married ten years; I presume you have children." "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" "You have great expectations, my son. You presume too much."

Similarity of words

A number of words in common use, similar in sound or spelling but having different meanings, that it would pay to check against a good dictionary, include the following: accept, except; affect, effect; ascent, assent; capital, capitol; complement, compliment; desert, dessert; faint, feint; loose, lose; principal, principle; stationary, stationery; weather, whether.

Words correctly used create vibrant, meaningful writing. Words incorrectly used can lead to misunderstandings and confusion.


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    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 3 months ago from Ohio

      Great hub! English can be confusing and there are plenty of words that everyday English speakers mix up. As writers, I think we all can use a friendly reminder from time to time to double check our spelling, grammar, and word usage.

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