Let’s take a quick look at some more of those commonly misspelled, misused, or misunderstood words or phrases that can be such a problem:
How do you use “i.e.,” and “e.g.”? There is a difference!
One way to remember which is which is to look at their Latin roots. My dictionary tells me that each phrase is an abbreviation for a Latin phrase: i.e. (id est) means “that is”; while e.g. (exempli gratia) means “for example.” Each, according to the AP style guide, is always followed by a comma.
To confuse the issue a bit, “I.E.” or “IE” both stand for the title “Industrial Engineer.”
You may have wondered about “pro-,” “anti-,” and “non-”
While each is most often used as part of an ordinary word, e.g., produce, anticipate, or nonsense, each may also be used to coin a new word, in which case, “pro” generally means for; “anti” means against; and “non” means not.
Thus you have pro-peace; anti-war; and non-inflammatory. There are several rules and exceptions, so it’s always best to look up your specific word, and how to use it, in your dictionary and perhaps style guide as well.
And speaking of the need to standardize on a specific dictionary or style guide,
How about “bi-” and “semi-”?
“Bi-” means “every other,” while “semi-” means “twice.” So, when you say your newsletter is published “bimonthly,” that means it comes out every other month. But if you are really ambitious, and your newsletter is published “semimonthly,” your newsletter comes out twice a month (AP Style Guide) Whether these words are hyphenated or not depends on your dictionary or style guide.
There are some tricky exceptions. For example, “biannual” and “semiannual” are both words, mean the same, and are correctly spelled without the hyphen. You could issue a policy update biannually (twice a year) – no hyphen, or semiannually (also twice a year).
To further confuse this issue, “biennial” means every two years. No wonder English is so difficult to learn!
Now for an easy one: “reject,” or “refute”:
Often used interchangeably, these two words have very different meanings. “Reject” means to refuse to accept. So you could say, “I totally reject the entire concept, and that is the end of it!”
On the other hand, if you just like a good argument, you could “refute” what someone has said, or offer proof that it was wrong, inaccurate, mistaken, or just a plain old lie! So you could say, “I am about to refute the accuracy of what he said: to prove that he has, indeed, lied about this matter.”
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