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October 24, 2009
Do You Make These Word Choice Mistakes? Part Too

Do you feel that spark?

When you noticed the error in the headline of this article, your brain had a “wait a minute, that’s not correct” moment.

It’s easier to spot errors when they are not your errors. Perhaps a little satisfying, some might even ponder, “How could anyone ever make that mistake?”

Even simple words, such as “two” and “too,” may be mixed up if a writer is rushed. Editors provide peace of mind for writers—a safety net. However, initially avoiding common writing errors improves your writing’s clarity and saves you time later.

In my last article, I pointed out the differences between three pairs of similar words. Here are three more sets to help you get in the habit of choosing the correct word on the first try.

Regard vs. Regards

The word “regard” can be used as a verb or a noun.

As a verb, the word is used to express the action of “taking into account or considering”:

In regard to your question, no, I do not prefer sugar in my coffee.

As a noun, the word is used to reference “a point or aspect”:

In this regard, I like bitter coffee.

“Regard” can also be utilized as a verb to signify “having esteem”:

After hearing his presentation, I highly regard Dr. Smith’s intelligence.

“Regard” is the word that you want to use if you aim to express any of the above thoughts (or any of the other meanings of the word “regard”).

“Regards” is used only as a noun related to emotions.

For example:

- “Linda has not been feeling well.”
- “Oh, really? I’m sorry to hear that! Please send her my regards.”

In the above example, you are feeling an emotion or sentiment about Linda’s illness, so you want to send her your good wishes.

That’s it!

In general, use “regard” unless you are sending your feelings of empathy to someone else.

Beside vs. Besides

Here are the essentials—some basic definitions.

Meanings of the preposition “beside”:

1. next to
2. compared to/next to
3. not connected to

Meanings of the preposition “besides”:

1. in addition to
2. other than/except

Associate the word “beside” with the word “alongside.” Both words end with the letters “s-i-d-e.”

The confusing part involves the fine line between “compared to/next to” or “not connected to” (uses of “beside”) and “in addition to” or “other than/except” (uses of “besides”).

Let’s make these differences explicit.

How do you make a comparison between items?

You may compare/contrast items by arranging them alongside/beside each other.

For example, if you have three apples and one orange lined up in a row alongside each other, the orange is the one that is not connected to, or not like, the other pieces of fruit.

Beside → Alongside → Compared to →Not connected to

The phrases “in addition to” and “other than/except” may be substituted with the word “besides.” Let’s make use of the fact that the word ends with the letter “s” to help us remember when to use “besides” accurately.

The letter “s” reminds us of words that are plural.

Besides → With an “s” = Plural → In Addition To (Think Two or More—Plural)

Besides → With an “s” = Except

Associate the “s” sound in the word “except” with the word “besides,” which ends with the letter “s.”

Stationary vs. Stationery

The word “stationary,” an adjective, is used to express “still, grounded, or motionless”:

I use the stationary bicycle at the gym three times a week.

Associate the “a” in the word “adjective” with the fact that the last three letters in the adjective “stationary” contain the letter “a.”

Tip: Stationary is an adjective.

“Stationery”, a noun, is writing material:

I have personalized stationery with my company’s logo.

Associate the noun “stationery” with “paper.”

The last three letters of the noun “stationery” contain the letter “e.”

The word “paper” ends with the letters “er.”

Tip: Stationery = Paper.

Want to quickly differentiate more frequently confused words?

Visit www.RevisionFairyTales.com and download Revision Fairy Tales: 21 Writing Mistakes You’ll Never Make Again.

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Stefanie Flaxman corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. She’s a writing consultant and the founder of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services. Check out her free report and subscribe to Small Business Writing Consultant Blog to get free business writing advice. Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter!

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