Five Common Usage Mistakes to Avoid – Sheet 3 of 8
#1) Loose / Lose … Choose / Chose
Lose and loose cause some trouble because of the unusual phonetics involved. Lose is the opposite of win, and loose is not tight. The common mistake is when people spell lose with an extra ‘o’ because of the ‘oo’ sound in lose. Here are two ways to remember the proper spelling: 1) If you lose a game, you have suffered a loss (loss is the noun form of lose), and both of these words have only one ‘o’ in them, or 2) In a track meet, loose laces lose races. Choose and chose is a slightly more logical phonetic stricture, and it is perhaps the closeness to the spellings of lose and loose that causes the errors here. Chose is the past tense of choose, and the spelling is easy to keep straight if you lose the –se at the end of each word: choo and cho are easy to pronounce (and spell) correctly.
#2) Then & Than
Then is used to show a progression of time (we spoke, then we walked outside or things were so different then) while than is a word of comparison (I am quicker than you). More often than not, the problem is that people use then when they mean to use than. The easiest way to keep these two straight: Then answers the question When? and is nearly spelled the same way.
#3) Through, Threw and Thru
First of all, thru is not a word. It’s lazy spelling. Threw is the past tense of to throw, while through usually means something related to a passage from one space to another (through the years, the nail went through the wood). These are not new words – but to remember which is which, try the following: Either (a) Remember that throw and threw are nearly identical in spelling, or (b) remember how rough it is to walk through the woods.
#4) Woman vs. Women
This error is confounding. Women is the plural of woman. Period. Nothing complicated here. Nobody confuses the spellings of man and men, but people write women as a singular noun somewhat commonly. Remember: Women is formed by the same rule of pluralization that gives us men and children.
#5) Who’s vs. Whose
On the previous homophone sheet, we covered four common errors that arise because of apostrophe confusion, so this should be an easy one. Remember: Apostrophes usually indicate missing letters. So, Who’s must be missing something – it is the contraction for who is or who has. In either case, the apostrophe indicates a gap in the original words. Whose is the possessive form of who, as in “Whose hat is this?”