Correct Diction Is A Sure Path To Clear Writing

Today’s blog will be my last chance to communicate with you before next Tuesday’s election.  I want to use it to emphasize a point I’ve been stressing recently, i.e., learn to write clearly as part of your contribution to the skilled work force needed to help improve the economy, as urged by Mitt Romney.

Finding and using the correct word in constructing sentences is not just a function of vocabulary building; it’s also a vital ingredient in using good grammar.  To become an accomplished writer, you must learn to avoid faulty diction, which refers to the correct choice of words.  This subject is covered in my eBook “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on, but soon to be available in print as well).

My blog site has repeatedly stressed that good grammar can be learned by using word association, learned through extensive reading and continued practicing of your writing.   It’s an approach also espoused in my eBook.   I am living proof that this approach works, and, if it has worked for me, it can work for you.

Without regard to learning good grammar by word association, it’s also helpful to know which words to use in a given sentence and to have these words at your fingertips.  The more you can recognize how to use them, the faster your clear writing skills will improve.  In order to help move you along in this learning process, I have devoted this week’s blog to illustrating use of some of the more commonly misused and confused words which seem to cause writers problems.

One problem area is principal and principle.  These words are commonly confused.

Examples of the correct uses of principal are as follows:

Mary is the principal of the school.

The principal balance of your mortgage will be reduced with every monthly payment.

The correct uses of principle are as follows:

The principle point of his speech is not to raise taxes.

Not to allow any discrimination is a matter of principle with him.

Another troublesome area is the difference between effect (to accomplish), and affect (to influence).

For example, higher gasoline prices have a discouraging effect on driving.  But higher gasoline prices also affect everyone who drives.

Accept and except also causes problems.  Accept means to receive while except means to exclude.  Here are some illustrations:

I accept your gift with gratitude.  Your offer to buy my car is accepted.

This example uses both words to contrast their usage: Except for all the obvious shortcomings of this location, I agree with your description and accept your kind offer to sell me your business.

Also, here’s another form of except: There are exceptions to every rule.

Another set of words commonly misused is already and all ready.   The movers are already here.  In this usage the word means beforehand.  All ready means everyone is ready. The assembly is all ready to start.

Similarly, altogether and all together are often confused.  Altogether means entirely.  The committee was altogether satisfied with the report.  All together means collectively.  The committee was all together in rejecting the proposal.

Allusion and illusion are also frequently confused.  Allusion means a reference.  Your allusion to my poor habits is unacceptable to me.  His allusion to the fiscal cliff is too vague to be meaningful.

Illusion means a deceptive appearance, such as an optical illusion.  His sighting of water in the distance was just an illusion.

Further and farther are also words often and easily misused.  Farther means to a greater distance, to a greater extent.  Example:  I refuse to act any farther in this plan.  If you can’t hold up any farther, say so.  Further describes quantity or degree.  I can provide some further instances.  It’s not safe to go any further in the darkness.  I am not going to pursue my studies in literature any further. This word is usually found in the word, furthermore.

These are only a few examples.  Many more could be provided.  There is no easy way to overcome any propensity you may have to confuse these and other words.  Diligent application by extensive reading and studying of the troublesome words to learn their correct use is the best answer.

My last words for today are simply these:  Begin working on the improvement of your writing now and don’t give up on it.  Stay with it and be persistent!   Remember, persistence and determination are omnipotent.  Improvement of the economy is everyone’s responsibility.  It deserves your best effort.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.


Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, history, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

2 responses to “Correct Diction Is A Sure Path To Clear Writing

  1. a

    Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up
    what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything.
    Do you have any points for newbie blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

    • Thank you for the kind comment. My best advice: simply jump in with both feet and start blogging. Improve your writing as you go along. That’s what I did.

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