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Commonly Confused Words in English, and How to Fix Them!

Conquering English Editing Errors

Having taught English for 18 years now, I can tell you that there are three different types of commonly confused words — and there’s a technique to combat each kind. Come along to learn… and smile, too, since I’ve drawn cartoons to help remember!

Confusing Homophones

The first type of commonly confused words are: homophones: words which sound exactly the same and have the same pronunciation, but are spelled differently, and mean different things. An example would be whose and who’s or weather vs. whether. Each homophone set has different tricks to help remember it, so keep reading to learn those.

Then there are “almost-homophones:” words that sound and look similar, but are not pronounced exactly the same, such as lose vs. loose, and clothes vs. cloths.

There they're or their
Homophones can be confusing.

Concept Confusions

The second kind of commonly confused words are errors in concepts: mixing up two ideas which actually mean quite different things. An example of this would be confusing former and latter.

The best way to fix these mix-ups is to get a visual image of each word’s definition implanted in your brain — ideally through a funny picture (like a certain “Deep Seated or Deep Seeded?” article) or story. Stay tuned: I have good examples of those for you coming next! This drawing is a sneak preview…

Former vs. Latter
What’s the difference between “former” and “latter?”

The Hardest Words to Spell…

Third, there are mistakes with spelling, and commonly misspelled words. What’s funny is that the most confusing words to spell in English are often frequently-used ones which just don’t follow usual conventions.

For example, “Its” is a short, simple word which we use every day, but which doesn’t adhere to the usual English language rules for apostrophes. The way to combat these spelling errors is via mnemonic devices: funny memory tricks to stick the spelling in your brain.

Now let’s learn how to swat down the most frequently mixed-up words of ALL these three types so that your writing can sparkle with perfection! I will definitely continue to add to this list, so feel free to send in your requests for which to do next.

Commonly Confused Words

Want to make your English writing sound more professional, and expertly edited? Learn how to fix these commonly confused words with lively cartoon lessons!

Commonly Confused Words Worksheet

How to TEACH Commonly Confused Words

Want a printable (or electronic) four-page interactive lesson on the most commonly confused words? Click to see this grammar and editing worksheet from my online store, which gets high reviews! I hope you find it as useful and enjoyable as my students do.

(Honestly — former pupils come back years later and say they remember these grammar and usage lessons fondly! It warms the heart of this teacher.)

VIDEO: Commonly Confused Words

More English Language Arts Lessons:

Curious to see other English lessons from this friendly middle school ELA teacher and artist, Lillie Marshall? (Don’t be frightened by the fact that I teach 7th grade — these articles are good for all ages.) Check them out here:

Commonly confused words
Pin this to save this commonly confused words lesson list.

Other Commonly Confused Words

There are oh-so-many other frequently mixed up words in the English language (“fiction vs. nonfiction,” anyone?), and I would love your help picking the next commonly confused words for me to teach through cartoon lessons! Do use the comment section below to make your request

Want more? Check out “Flush Out or Flesh Out?”


Thursday 7th of October 2021

How about "effect" and "affect", please? Thank you!

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 7th of October 2021

Adding VERY HIGH on the "To Do" list and will let you know when it's done!

Michelle | Flipped-Out Food

Friday 12th of March 2021

This is great! Editing is a big part of my "real job," and I see a few of these mistakes over and over. They never fail to give me hives, ha ha. Instilling these rules with images is a great idea. If you could tackle apostrophe abuse next, you'd be doing the world another great service!

Lillie Marshall

Friday 12th of March 2021

By "commonly confused words," I do indeed mean COMMON. These are everywhere! Thanks for the suggestion of apostrophe usage. I'll add it to the list to illustrate!

Soheila Hakimi

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

Is it bad that i'm 32 and still have to check my self sometimes for using the wrong your/you're lol

Lillie Marshall

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

It's SO COMMON! You're not alone, and there's nothing to be ashamed about -- just read and practice the rules and it will come!


Tuesday 9th of March 2021

It's and its is a big one for me!

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

Such a tricky commonly confused word!

Jeff Albom

Monday 8th of March 2021

This is a nice summary for learning the difference between these words. Great for the primary school aged kids.

Lillie Marshall

Monday 8th of March 2021

Thanks! In fact the feedback I've been getting is that many adults appreciate this tutorial, too. "It's and its" are particularly confusing for all ages.