Wrong Word Usage – Part 4

It’s been a while since we’ve looked at some mistakes I see in manuscripts. As a freelance editor, I anticipate these types of errors. However, an agent or publisher expects the writer to have a polished manuscript, so it’s best to learn what mistakes to avoid. Today, we’re going to study: faze/phase, fearful/fearsome, flair/flare, fowl/foul, and formally/formerly. Do you know how to use these words correctly? Let’s see…

Faze/Phase: “Faze” means to disturb the composure of. I love the example used in the online version of Merriam-Webster. “You’ll never succeed as a writer if you let a little bit of criticism faze you.” “Phase” means to adjust so as to be in a synchronized condition, or to introduce in stages. For example, someone may go through a phase where they only eat cheese pizzas. Or, a company might decide to phase out the older model and replace it with a new one.

Fearful/Fearsome: To be “fearful” is to be scared. To be “fearsome” is to cause fear in others.

Flair/Flare: “Flair” is a talent or skill. She has a flair for style. “Flare”, the noun, is a fire or light used to signal or attract attention. “Flare”, the verb, means to burn with an unsteady flame, to become suddenly excited or angry like when a temper flares, or to spread outward like the bottoms of certain jeans.

Fowl/Foul: A chicken is a fowl, as are all birds. “Foul”, the adjective, is offensive to the senses like a foul odor. Or it can be displeasing in other ways like foul language. “Foul”, the noun, is an infringement of the rules in a game or sport like a foul ball.

Formally/Formerly: If something is done in a formal matter, it’s done “formally.” If someone previously behaved differently, they did so “formerly” or at a previous time.

Which words on this list have you struggled with or misused?

Lynnette Labelle

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