The Tricky Twins

The Tricky TwinsThe Tricky Twins (once in a while Triplets) are some of the toughest words in the English language. They’re often homophones, words that sound alike (or nearly so), but mean something different and are either formatted or spelled differently.

Sometimes, of course, they’re more like “kissing cousins,” words that sort of look and sound the same. And sometimes, they’re just words that we’ve never learned correctly! 

Here are some of the most easily confused words, in no particular order.

Every day Each day
Everyday Ordinary, commonplace

Eating lunch every day is an everyday event.

Affect (v.) To influence; to change; to assume (accent on second syllable)
Affect (n.) Psychological term meaning an emotional state (accent on first syllable)
Effect (n.)

Effect (v.)

The result

To cause change

The word RAVEN can help you remember the first definition of each word, the ones you’ll most likely use in business writing.



Accept Agree; take; receive
Except Exclude
Compose To make up: The parts compose the whole.
Comprise To include; contain; consist of: The whole comprises (includes/contains) the parts. 
A lot Frequently (think “a little” to help you remember)
Allot Assign or distribute shares
Alot Does not exist
Anxious Looking forward to with anxiety or fear
Eager Looking forward to with happiness, confidence
Continual Occurring steadily, but with occasional breaks
Continuous Uninterrupted; unbroken
Bad (adjective) Form used after feel, look, taste, sound, smell
Badly (adverb) Form used after other verbs
Principal The most important; the main idea, person, or thing
Principle A general rule; a truth; integrity
Disinterested Impartial; having no stake in the outcome
Uninterested Not interested
Imply Hint or suggest
Infer Conclude by reasoning from something known or assumed
Assume Take as true without evidence
Presume Take as true for a specific reason; have evidence
Libel Damaging public statement made in print (think lawyers)
Slander Damaging public statement made orally (think spoken)
Precede Go before
Proceed Advance to

I’m sure you have your own group of Tricky Twins to learn — am I right? My idea for that is to memorize one of them so that you ALWAYS know when to use it. And if it doesn’t fit the sentence’s context — use the other one!