A Desk-Book of Errors in English/A

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A Desk-Book of Errors in English by Frank Horace Vizetelly
Contents: IntroductionA B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




a, an: Before an aspirated "h," as in "Hibernianism," the article "a" should be used, "A" is used when the next word begins with a consonant sound; "an" when it begins with a vowel or silent "h." Though never so feebly aspirated, "h" has something of a consonant sound, and the article in this case ought to conform to the general principle, as in "a historic introduction has generally a happy effect to arouse attention." To be correct one should say: an island, a Highlander; an oysterman, a hoister; a hotel, an onion; a herb, an heir; a house, an owl. Some persons do not aspirate the "h" in "herb"; when the "h" is not aspirated, the word takes the article "an," not "a."

abandon, forsake, desert: To abandon is to give up entirely, as home and friends, and implies previous association with responsibility for or control; to forsake is to leave or withdraw from a person or place, and suggests previous association with inclination or attachment. Abandon and forsake may be used in a favorable or unfavorable sense. Desert is to leave permanently and especially without regard for the person or thing deserted; it is used only in an unfavorable sense and usually implies a breach of duty.

Some writers assert that desert is used only "of causes or persons but not of things." This is erroneous. There is ample evidence of its correct application to things; as the soldier deserts his colors; the sailor deserts his ship.

abbreviate, abridge: Discriminate carefully between these words. To abbreviate is to shorten a word so that a part stands for the whole; to abridge is to condense or epitomize, as a report, in such manner that the spirit of the original is retained though it is expressed in fewer words.

ability, capacity: These words are not exactly synonymous in meaning when used in the singular. Ability is bodily or mental power; capacity is receptive or containing power. Ability when used in the plural embraces both meanings.

about. Compare almost.

above: Inelegantly used as a noun by ellipsis of some noun as "He wrote the above" for "the above phrase."A more objectionable use is as an adjective; as, "I submit the above facts" for "I submit the above-mentioned facts," The use of the word "foregoing" or the more legal expression "before-mentioned" would better meet the case. Lamb, always inclined to be humorous, ridicules the expression by referring to "the above boys and the below boys."

above should not be used for "more than."

acceptance, acceptation: Terms sometimes used interchangeably but incorrectly so. "Acceptance" is the state of being accepted; as the acceptance of a position or office; acceptation is the favorable admission of or acquiescence in a matter, or assent to a belief.

accept of: A visitor does not accept of the hospitality of his host, but accepts his hospitality. In this phrase "of" is redundant.

accident, injury: These words are used sometimes incorrectly. An "accident" is that which happens without known or assignable cause or without deliberate intention; an "injury" is a hurt that causes physical or mental pain resulting, as from an accident. An accident may be injurious, and injuries painful; but accidents should never be spoken of as painful.

accord should not be used for give. To accord is "to render or concede as due and proper, as honor or veneration;" to give is "to bestow as appropriate; as to give thanks, praise, or welcome."

accord, award: The first of these words implies a spontaneous bestowal prompted by the dictates of the heart (Latin cor, cord-, heart); the concession or grant due to inherent merit that cannot be denied. Award is colder and more unimpassioned and formal, and implies a grant only after careful observation and judgment. You accord honor where honor is individually due, but award a medal to a victor out of many (actual or possible) contestants.

accord, grant: Privileges may be either accorded or granted. To accord is to concede as due and proper; grant; bestow; allow; to grant is to bestow or confer; give, as a concession; allow. Some writers erroneously restrict the meaning of accord to agree with; suit."

acknowledgment: Do not spell this word acknowledgement; preferably it is acknowledgment—omit "e" after the "g."

acme. Compare climax.

acoustic (a.), acoustics (n.): When the adjective is used the verb must agree in number with the noun which the adjective qualifies; as, "the acoustic properties of this theater are good." But the noun though plural in form is singular in construction and always takes a verb in the singular as, "acoustics is a branch of physics."

acquaintance. Compare friend.

acquiesce: Never use the preposition "with" after this word. You acquiesce in an arrangement.

act, action: Do not use one word for the other. A man does a good act rather than a good action. An act is accomplished by an exercise of power, whereas an action is the fact of exerting such power and refers to the modus operandi. A party to a conveyance signifies his exercise of power by the formula "This is my act and deed," but the course pursued, the procedure—the fact of sale and purchase—may be referred to as a wise action.

adherence, adhesion, attachment: These terms are no longer synonymous, although originally so. Adherence is used of things mental or spiritual, as principles, while adhesion is applied to material things. The figurative meaning of adhere appears in adherence, which is somewhat synonymous with attachment and applies to mental conditions or principles. Adhesion is generally reserved for physical attachment; as, "an adhesion effected by glue," although Dowden in his "Studies in Literature" (p. 230,) has written "Browning's courageous adhesion to truth never deserts him." Far better is Johnson's "Shakespeare's adherence to general nature has exposed him to the censure of critics, who form their judgments upon narrower principles."

adjective and adverb: In selecting the correct word to use, bear in mind that where a phrase denoting manner can be substituted an adverb is required; where some tense of the verb to be can be used the adjective is necessary; as, "The surgeon felt the limb carefully and found that one of the bones was broken.

admission. Compare admittance.

admit, admit of: Very different in meaning. "This gate admits (affords entrance) to the grounds, but the size of the vehicle will not admit of (allow or permit) its passing through." Where Emerson says "Every action admits of being outdone," the simple admit could not be substituted.

admittance, admission: These words are not merely synonymous. Admittance refers to place, admission refers also to position, privilege, favor, friendship, etc. An intruder may gain admittance to the hall of a society who would not be allowed admission to its membership.

adore: Often misused as an emphatic for "like." One may adore that which one reveres or venerates or has profound regard or affection for, but not that which is pleasant to the palate. A child may like cherries and adore its mother, but it does not adore cherries though it likes its mother.

advantage, benefit: Exercise care in using these words. Advantage is that which gives one a vantage ground, either for coping with competitors or with difficulties, needs, or demands; as, "to have the advantage of a good education." It is frequently used of what one has beyond another or secures at the expense of another; as, "to have the advantage of another in an argument," or "to take advantage of another in a bargain. Benefit is anything that does one good.

adverbs and the infinitive "to." See split infinitive.

a few. Condemned as employing the singular article before an adjective plural in sense. Usage sanctions a hundred and a great many, these expressions being viewed as collective. A few is correct idiomatic English, with a sense distinctively different from that of the adjective used alone; as, "A few men can be trusted" (i.e., a small but appreciable number). "Few men can be trusted" (i. e., scarcely any) is practically equivalent to the negative statement "Most men are not to be trusted."

affect. Compare effect.

against: Never shorten this preposition into again. Such a usage is either dialectical or obsolete; and save in such usage there is no preposition again, or as sometimes spoken by persons careless with their speech agen.

aggravate, exasperate, irritate, provoke: A fever or a misfortune may be aggravated, but not a person. The person is, perhaps, exasperated or provoked. To aggravate, from the Latin aggravo "to make heavy," is to intensify, and applies only to conditions of fact; provoke, which calls forth anger, and exasperate, which heightens (or roughens) anger already provoked, allude to mental states. A patient may be so irritated that his condition is aggravated. Here to aggravate is to make worse; to irritate is to annoy, provoke.

ago. Compare since.

agreeable: Do not spell this word agreable. Its component parts are agree plus able; always double the "e" before the "a." Agreeable is often erroneously used for agreeably in correspondence. In this sense it is a commercial colloquialism, meaning "being in accordance or conformity," as with some previous action. "Agreeable to your request I have forwarded the goods." Correctly, this should be rendered "Agreeably with your request, etc.," meaning "so as to be agreeable."

agreeably. Compare agreeable.

aid. Compare help.

ain't: Avoid as inelegant. In such a phrase as "he ain't," it is both vulgar and ungrammatical; "he isn't" is the preferred form. "The contraction ain't for isn't is a vulgarism which ought not to need criticism. Yet ''tain't so' said an educated preacher once in my hearing. The safe rule respecting contractions is never to use them in public speech. This is the instinct of a perfect taste." Austin Phelps, English Style, lecture ii. p. 25.

alienate, antagonize: Alienate which means "estrange," should never be used for antagonize, meaning "contend against" or "bring into opposition." Thus, you alienate your friend because you antagonize his views.

all. See under any, whole, and compare universally.

allege: Do not spell this word alledge. It has no connection whatever with ledge, a shelf. Allege is derived from the Latin adlegio, clear, and came to England with the Normans in the Norman French form aligier, Old French, esligier, from the Latin, ex, out, and litigo, to carry strife. It means, to assert.

alleviate, relieve: Distinguished from relieve, as alleviate, by lightening (Latin ad, to, + levis, light), mitigates or makes less burdensome, and relieve, by removing (Latin re, again, + levis, lifting up), supplies what is wanting.

Alleviation affects internal sensations, affording comparative ease, whereas relief operates upon external conditions, removing pain. You alleviate suffering and relieve distress or poverty.

all of them: This phrase furnishes an excellent example of the common carelessness of speech. Of signifies from or from out; and whereas one can subtract a certain quantity from an entire number, one can hardly refer to that number as still existing, in any shape whatever, if one subtracts the whole; for from out implies a remainder. You may say "ship some, or any definite number, say ten of them," or "ship them all," but not "ship all of them."

all over the world: A common but undesirable locution for "all the world over" or "over all the world."

allow, permit: Discriminate carefully between these words. Allow implies no attempt at hindrance; permit suggests authorization to do. One allows that to which one interposes no objection or takes no step to prevent; one permits that to which one gives express consent or authorization. In some parts of the United States allow is used in the sense of "think, think likely, intend"; as, "he allowed he would go"; "he allowed to pay it." It is used also in the sense of say. Both uses are wholly inadmissible.

all right: In best usage this term is always written as two words. Formerly alright was in vogue, but it is now obsolete.

allude: This word is frequently used as synonymous with mention but this is a careless and improper treatment of the term.

"Allude is in danger of losing its peculiar signification, which is delicate and serviceable . . . . (It) means to indicate jocosely, to hint at playfully .... Allusion is the by-play of language." — R. G. White Words and Their Uses, ch. 5, p. 90. (S. H. & Co.'70)

Allude is from the Latin alludo, treat lightly, from ad, at, and ludo, play, and should be used only with the sense of "to refer incidentally, indirectly, or by suggestion." When you toast a hero by name, you certainly do not allude to him, although in so doing you make a pretty allusion to the heroic act with which his name is identified. In toasting Dewey, you do not allude to him but to his deeds off Manila.

allusion: Distinguish between this word and illusion. The former is derived from the Latin ad, at, + ludo, play (treat lightly), and means an incidental suggestion or passing reference, a species of innuendo; the latter is derived from in, on, + ludo, play (play tricks on), and means an unreal image presented to the senses.

almost: "An adjective in early English, the use of which has recently been revived, but it has not received the sanction of general usage." — Standard Dictionary.

An "almost Christian" is, however, a most expressive term, and would oftentimes more nearly express the truth than the absolute and unqualified "Christian." Compare most.

almost, about: These words are now commonly used as interchangeable synonyms. Formerly, such use was condemned. One may say of a task that it is "almost completed" or that it is "about completed" meaning that it is nearly accomplished or approaches closely to a completed state.

already: Although this word consists of two elements "all" and "ready," it is not correctly spelled with two "l's" but already.

also, likewise: According to some writers also merely denotes addition, and likewise denotes connection with some person or thing that has previously been referred to. Likewise, which means "in like manner," of necessity refers to states and conditions which are susceptible of manner, and should not be used indiscriminately for also, which properly connects facts and qualities. There is, for example, a considerable difference between the expressions "He spoke also" and "He spoke likewise." In the second case, the matter of speech may be considered to have been to the same effect as the speech first alluded to. Lexicographers do not recognize this difference.

In practise, the choice between these words is largely to secure euphony and avoid repetition. Also and likewise affirm that what is added is like that to which it is added. — Standard Dictionary, p.59.

alternative: "This word means a choice — one choice — between two things. Yet popular usage has so corrupted it, that it is now commonly applied to the things themselves, and not to the choice between them, as 'You may take either alternative,' 'I was forced to choose between two alternatives.' And, indeed, some people go so far as to say 'several alternatives were presented him.' "—E. S. Gould, Good English, Misused Words, p. 45.

always, all ways: Discriminate carefully between these terms. Always means "during all time"; all ways means "in every way."

amateur, novice: These terms are not synonymous. The distinction between them is that an amateur may be the equal in skill of a professional, but a novice is a beginner, and as such does not equal the professional in skill.

ambidextrous: Do not spell this word "ambidexterous" It is derived from the Latin dextra, the right hand, and ous. Although the form ambidexterous was common in England in the nineteenth century, it is not now in use.

ambition should not be used to signify mild energy as it imports persistent and inordinate or steadfast desire. "The heat leaves me without ambition for work" illustrates an altogether wrong use of the word.

amid, among: Discriminate carefully between these words. Amid denotes position when one object is surrounded by others from which it differs in nature or characteristics; among denotes an intermingling of objects of the same nature. A man may be amid, enemies but not among them; he may be among friends but not amid them.

among, between: Among may apply to any number; between applies to two only.

among one another: A pleonasm. Say, rather, "among themselves."

among the rest: Say "among them was he," or "with the rest was he" — not among the rest. As "the rest" specifically excludes himself, it is impossible for him to figure in the midst of them.

amount, number: Amount is used of substances in mass; number refers to the individuals of which such mass is constituted.

an: Modern practice does not permit of the use of an before words beginning with an aspirated "h" as, "hair," "hall," "harangue," "hero," "history," "historical," "historian," "house," "hypothesis," "heraldic," etc. However, it may be correctly used before words in which the initial "h" is not aspirated. Compare a, an.

ancient, antiquated: Anything antiquated is ancient but not all things that are ancient are antiquated; thus ancient refers to things that existed in olden times; antiquated to things obsolete or that have fallen behind the times.

and, (the relative preceded by): Where "and" is used to connect two clauses the clauses must be of similar construction. Therefore, do not say, "I met Florence on Wednesday, and which was very pleasing to me," which is not only grammatically incorrect, but is faulty in that it introduces an altogether useless word. Omit the "and."

and, to: These terms are not interchangeable. One does not "try and do a task," but "one tries to do it."

anger. Compare temper.

angry. Compare mad.

angry at, with: A man may be angry at or about a hurt, never with it; he is angry at rather than with a dog. We may be angry with a person.

annoyed at, by, with: Note the correct use of the prepositions. "He will be annoyed at or by complaints" (if they are made); "He will be annoyed with complaints" (because they will surely be made).

another from: Misused for another than; as, "judges of quite another stamp from his Majesty's judges of Assize," for "of quite another stamp than, etc.

another such: These words should be used always in this order. Avoid "such another mistake," as incorrect; "another such mistake" is better.

answer, reply: Discriminate carefully between these words. The Standard Dictionary, quoting Crabb says, "an answer is made to a question; a reply is made to an assertion;" but, it continues, "this statement is too limited, as an answer is made to a charge as well as to a question.... A reply is an unfolding, and implies both thought and intelligence. Reply implies the formal dissection of a statement previously made; answer, a ready return of words to a question or charge that is made."

antagonize, veto, oppose, forbid: Antagonize is distinguished from veto or oppose. In the sense of "neutralize" or " deprive of active power " you may antagonize a disease, while you oppose or veto a bill. To forbid is to prohibit with authority; to veto is to forbid authoritatively, with or without the right to do so. Compare alienate.

ante-, anti-: Discriminate carefully between these prefixes. Ante- means "before;" anti- means "opposite to." Antediluvian means "before the flood"; Antichrist means "opposed to Christ."

anticipate, expect, hope: As anticipate implies "expectation with confidence and pleasure," never use it where mere expectation is meant, which applies to that which we have good reason to believe will happen. "I hope for a visit from my friend, though I have no word from him; I expect it, when he writes that he is coming; and as the time draws near I anticipate it," for I look forward to it with confidence and pleasure.

antiquated. Compare ancient.

any, all, at all: Avoid using any adverbially in place of the adjective. Don't say "Did you sleep any?" when you mean "Did you have any sleep ? " or "Did you sleep at all?"

Since any individualizes or separates, signifying one or some out of a certain quantity or number, and thus differentiating from the whole or entire quantity or number, the word should not be used interchangeably with all. " He is the finest fellow of all" (not of any=of any one fellow) I have known."

any, either: Any is used of more than two; either of two only. Do not say "the United States or either of them," say, rather, "any of them."

anyhow, anyway: "Forcible colloquial expressions often used to indicate that something is to be done, admitted, believed, or the like, be the circumstances, results or conditions what they may; as 'Anyhow, I have lost it;' 'anyway, I am going.' In place of these, such expressions as 'In any event,' 'At any rate,' 'Be that as it may' are ordinarily preferred." — Standard Dictionary.

any place, some place: "He won't go any place; " "I want to go some place" Say, rather, "He won't go anywhere;" "I want to go somewhere" These are solecisms, unfortunately common, which should be avoided. "Place" may be used as an indirect object only when preceded by a preposition.

anyway, anywhere: Frequently misspelled anyways, anywheres. These words should never be written with a final s.

apostasy: In modern usage the last syllable is spelled with an s. The alternative spelling, apostacy, though occasionally used, is not preferred.

apparent, evident, manifest: Do not confound apparent with evident, because what is apparent may or may not be evident. That is apparent which appears to be, as apparent sincerity; but appearances may be false. Things are not always what they seem. "That is evident of which the mind is made sure by some inference that supplements the fact of perception. That is manifest which we can lay the hand upon: manifest is thus stronger than evident, as touch is more absolute than sight." See heir.

appear, seem: Discriminate carefully between these words. Appear refers to that which manifests itself to the senses; seem applies to that which is manifest to the mind on reflection. Seem gives or creates the impression of being. A man may seem honest but cannot appear so.

appreciate: This verb has the intransitive sense of "to increase in value," despite the fact that some critics (though without justifiable cause) object to its use in such a phrase as "real estate appreciates as the city grows."

apprehend, comprehend: These terms are neither synonymous nor interchangeable. To apprehend is to perceive; to comprehend is to understand.

approach: Sometimes incorrectly used for address, petition, etc. One is approached by indirect or covert intimation, suggestion, or question, which he may encourage if he will, or may put aside without formal refusal. Approach is often used in a bad sense, implying the use of bribery or intrigue. Do not say "the teachers have approached the Educational Department for longer intermissions," when you mean "the teachers have petitioned," etc.

apt, likely: Words sometimes misapplied. Apt implies natural fitness or tendency; likely applies to a contingent event considered as very probable.

aren't: For are not when the subject follows; as, "Aren't you?" "Aren't they?" The best conversational usage contracts the verb when the subject precedes: "we're not," "you're not," etc. Similarly we say "I'm not," "I'll not."

argue. Compare augur.

arraign at, before, for, on, after: "The criminal was arraigned at the court" is incorrect; a criminal is arraigned at the bar; before the court; for a crime; on an indictment; after the discovery of his crime.

articles: Two or more words connected by and referring to different things should each be preceded by the article; but when they denote the same thing, the article is commonly used with the first only. "The black-and-white horse" would denote one horse marked with the two colors black and white. "The black and the white horse" would denote two horses, one black and the other white.

as . . . as, so . . . as. The Standard Dictionary says: A shade of difference in their meanings, as strictly used in comparisons, is often neglected. So . . . as suggests that, in the comparison of the persons or things mentioned, there is present in the mind of the speaker a consciousness of a considerable degree of the quality considered; as . . . as does not carry this impression. In "John is not as tall as James" there is no implication that the speaker regards either John or James as tall; there is merely a comparison of their heights. So, too, in "John is not as old as James" there is merely a comparison of ages. But if one says, "John is not so tall as James," though the so is not emphasized, there is understood usually to be a reference more or less distinct to something uncommon in the height of James as compared with the stature of other men or of other boys of his age; the speaker regards James as being tall. "John is not so old as James" suggests that, in some relation or other, James is thought of as being old; as in "James is taller than John." "Yes, but my boy is not so old as yours."

In affirmative sentences so . . . as can not properly be used except in certain restricted constructions, and where the quality referred to is to be emphasized. It occurs oftenest in sentences that, though affirmative in form, carry a negative suggestion; as, "So good a cook as Polly is hard to find," that is, "It is not easy to find so good a cook as Polly.

Few knights of the shire [in the 17th century] had libraries so good as may now perpetually be found in a servants' hall.

Macaulay, History, ch. 3.

That is, "not many knights of the shire," etc. In a simple affirmative comparison like "Jane is as good a cook as Polly," so . . . as is not used.

In interrogative sentences, as in negative sentences, a consciousness more or less distinct of a considerable degree of the quality referred to is conveyed by so . . . as, but not by as . . . as. "Is John as old as James?" and "Is your uncle so old as my father?" convey different impressions as to what the speaker means by old. In the question where as . . . as is used there is no implication of considerable age in old.

as far as, so far as: Discriminate carefully between these terms. As far as expresses distance; so far as expresses limitation, as of one's knowledge. Therefore, "so far as I know" is preferable to "as far as I know."

as if. Compare like. as, so: Discriminate between these words; as is used in comparing persons or things of approximate caliber or size; so when the comparison is unequal.

as, that: Discriminate carefully between these words. As is often improperly used for that. Do not say "not as I know of "; "I do not know as I shall go." Say, rather, "Not that I know of"; "I do not know that I shall go."

ascent must be distinguished from assent, its homonym. The former is derived from Latin ad, to, + scando, climb, and means the act of climbing; the latter is from Latin ad, to, + sentio, feel, and means expression of concurrence in a proposition, acquiescence.

aside: An Americanism for apart. Not "auxiliary words aside," but "auxiliary words apart."

asparagus. Compare sparrow grass.

assent. Compare ascent.

assume, perform, discharge: We assume responsibilities to perform a task and thus discharge our duty. Duties are not performed.

astonish, surprise: Terms which some writers claim are not synonymous or interchangeable, but usage has made them so. To astonish is "to affect with wonder and surprise"; to surprise is "to strike with astonishment by some unexpected act or event."

Obviously, when one says, " I am surprised," he uses an expression exactly equivalent to "I am struck with astonishment," which is the equivalent of "I am astonished."

at: Commonly but erroneously used for to, as an intensive in such phrases as "Where have you been at" "Where are you going at?" Used also occasionally to denote place: as, "Where does he live at?" Wherever used in such connections the word is redundant.

at all: These words, supposed to have an intensive effect, are frequently unnecessarily introduced. "It doesn't rain at all," would be just as expressive if written "It doesn't rain."

at auction: In England this expression is known as an Americanism. There, goods are put up to auction and are sold by it—that is by offering them to the highest bidder. "At private sale" also is peculiar to America.

at best: An erroneous form for "at the best."

at, in: Always in a country; either at or in a city, town, or village; at, if the place is regarded as a point; in, if it is inclusive; as, "We arrived at Paris;" "He lives in London."

at length: The assumption that at length means the same as at last, and is therefore superfluous, is an error. Both at length and at last presuppose long waiting; but at last views what comes after the waiting as a finality; at length views it as intermediate with reference to action or state that continues, or to results that are yet to follow; as, "I have invited him often, and at length he is coming"; "I have invited him often, and at last he has come."

At length is used also of space; as, "He wrote me at length" (that is, fully or in detail). At last is used of time; as, "He came back at last."

at that: A vulgarism of speech, sometimes defended on the ground that the phrase is elliptical, the omitted word or phrase being computation, showing, or feature of the case. Avoid the usage, however.

at you: As a substitute for with you this is an unpardonable vulgarism, as in the sentence "I am angry at(for with) you."

audience, spectator: An audience is a number of persons assembled to listen to a play, lecture, debate, etc.; a spectator is an eye-witness as of a pageant, panorama, etc.

aught, ought: The former means anything whatever, any (even the smallest) part; the latter, as a noun, is a corruption of naught, a cipher. Naught is of course not aught, that is, not anything, thus nothing, and hence the figure 0, a cipher. Careful speakers do not replace this word by ought.

augur: With the sense of betoken or portend, this word must not be confounded with argue. The racecourse may augur, but certainly does not argue poverty.

authentic, authoritative, genuine: Often misused as synonymous terms. That which accords with the facts and comes from the source alleged is authentic; that which has the character represented and is true to its own claims is genuine; that which possesses or emanates from proper authority and is entitled to acceptance as such is authoritative.

Trench in "On the Study of Words" (p. 189), says: "A genuine work is one written by the author whose name it bears; an authentic work is one which relates truthfully the matters of which it treats." And an authoritative work is one which contains the results of the observations and conclusions of an author of special ability in subjects of which he is an acknowledged master.

auxiliary: In this word the letter "l" is never doubled.

avails: An Americanism for profits or proceeds.

averse from, averse to: Originally averse from was commonly used to designate the turning from a subject, as from repugnance. Present usage prefers averse to, denoting aversion in the sense of hostility toward the subject.

avocation, vocation: Discriminate carefully between these words. An avocation is that which takes one from his regular calling. It is a minor or irregular occupation. The term is used loosely, sometimes by good writers, for vocation, which signifies the main calling or business of life. An avocation is a diversion.

award. Compare accord.

aware. Compare conscious.

awful, awfully: Awful should not be used of things which are merely disagreeable or annoying, nor in the sense of excessive, exceedingly bad, great, or the like. It is sometimes incorrectly used to designate surprise or distress, as, an awful mouth, that is, a mouth of surprising size. Do not say "He created an awful scene," when you mean that the scene he created was distressing. Things cannot be "awfully nice" nor persons "awfully jolly," notwithstanding the sanction of colloquial usage. Phelps relates the following: "Two travelers at Rome once criticized Michael Angelo's statue of Moses. 'Is it not awful?' said one. 'Yes,' answered the other, 'it is sublime.' 'No, no!' rejoined the other, 'I meant awfully ugly!'" That is awful only which inspires awe.

aye, ay: Meaning always, ever, and pronounced ê (e, as in eight), is to be distinguished from aye, meaning yes, and pronounced ai (ai, as in aisle).