Commonly Misused Words – Part 2

The words we’re going to look at today are: backward/backwards, awhile/a while, aid/aide, allowed/aloud, and altogether/all together.  Do you know how to correctly use these words?  Let’s see…

Backward/Backwards: If used as an adverb, both will work.  For example, “He put his hat on backward.”  Or, “He put his hat on backwards.”  If you’re using the word as an adjective, the preferred form in the US is backward.  For example, “She did a jump and a backward turn to complete the move.”  When in doubt, use backward. The same applies to other directional words, such as upward, downward, toward, and forward, as well as afterward. As with backward/backwards, if used as an adverb, afterward can be spelled afterwards. However, The Chicago Manual of style prefers the simpler form without the s.

Awhile/A While: The adverb awhile means for a time.  For example, “Stay awhile.”  When while is the object of a prepositional phrase, while must be separated from a.  For example, “Can I borrow your car for a while?” A while is a noun phrase that follows for or in.

Aid/Aide: Aid can be a verb meaning to help or a noun meaning assistance, but aide is a noun meaning helper. Aide is always a person, not an object.

Allowed/Aloud:  When you were in school, you may have been allowed to read aloud.  Allowed means permitted, while aloud means out loud.

Altogether/All Together:  The adverb altogether means completely or entirely.  For example, “It stopped raining altogether.”  All together means in a group or a unity of time or place.  For example, “The kids were placed all together at the children’s table.” “We were all together for Christmas.”

How did you do?  Are there any words that trip you up?  When you learn something wrong, it’s hard to correct.  I find being aware of the mistake will at least make you search it out and correct it, even if you wrote it wrong in your draft.

More to come next week. Tomorrow, we’ll have a sneak peek at our author spotlight.

Lynnette Labelle
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