6 troublesome word pairs

Differing by a mere space, or by letter or two, these verbal cousins can confound listeners and perplex proofreaders.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

“You used the wrong word,” your boss says. It’s frustrating, but it’s Murphy’s Law. If your marketing and PR efforts haven’t been plagued by it yet, they will be.

Some word pairs that often foil the best of marketers:

1. Affect and effect.

Affect typically is a verb; effect usually is a noun. To keep them straight, think of copy written for Zantax or some other drug. The effects of it are nausea, insomnia, irritability, et cetera, et cetera.

A person who takes a drug like Benadryl for seasonal allergies is affected by it; he or she can hardly stay awake during the day and dozes off during the afternoon meeting.

2. Complementary and complimentary.

Complementary means to “add to, complete, or reinforce” something else. Transmedia storytelling and cross-channel marketing use complementary content to create the full experience.

Complimentary is in relation to flattery or something given away for free as in the case of the drinks and hors d’oeuvres to be served at your invitation-only event.

3. Averse and adverse.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.