Exercise Practice Using Frequently Misused Words

Read the sentences that follow and choose the appropriate word. Try to complete the exercise without rereading the word usage explanations to see whether you remember the rules.

1. The fax machine (continually/continuously) runs out of paper.

2. Bring (less/fewer) muffins for next week's staff meeting.

3. How will the decision to streamline operations (affect/effect) the workforce?

4. Just (among/between) the three of us, what do you think about the proposal?

5. We are (eager/anxious) to receive our tax refund.

6. He ran (farther/further) than anyone else in the company race.

7. When you finish reading the newsletter, please (lay/lie) it on my desk.

How did you do? Were you able to correctly identify the proper word choices?

1. The fax machine continually runs out of paper. Sometimes the fax machine has plenty of paper.

2. Bring fewer muffins for next week's staff meeting.

The word muffins is plural, so fewer is the appropriate choice.

3. How will the decision to streamline operations affect the workforce?

As a verb, affect signals action and is the proper word.

4. Just among the three of us, what do you think about the proposal?

Between would be used if there were only two people.

5. We are eager to receive our tax refund.

Depending on the circumstances, you might feel anxious about receiving a tax refund. For example, if you have many bills and are planning to use your refund to pay off some debts, while waiting for it to arrive you may feel anxious. However, one would expect you to feel more excitement than anxiety about receiving money, so eager is probably the better word choice. It's important to note, however, that the choice should be made based on the writer's intent, not speculation.

6. He ran farther than anyone else in the company race. Farther relates to physical distance.

7. When you finish reading the newsletter, please lay it on my desk. The word lay is followed by the object "it," referring to the newsletter.

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