This represents the input from several bards in the Xenaverse as well as from various grammar and writing sites around the 'Net. If you have comments or would like to suggest additions or deletions, please send a note to Lunacy at firstname.lastname@example.org and she'll see that we get it.
These are the types of mixups that spell checkers can't find for you.
AFFECT / EFFECT
Affect with an a is usually a verb; effect with an e is (usually) a noun. When you affect something, you have an effect on it. The usual adjective is effective. Effect as a verb is a different word altogether, which means to bring about or to accomplish, as in "to effect a change."
BAD / BADLY
Use Bad (and good) with descriptive verbs such as look, feel, sound, and taste. "Argo's saddlebags looked bad." "Xena, you smell good." Use badly (well) with every other verb. "Gabrielle thought she told the story badly." "Xena thought she told the story well."
BECAUSE / SINCE
Because means "for the reason that." Since refers to an element of time. It is usually considered proper to separate the two meanings in this way, however dictionaries do define 'since' as because. (Example: We're going to Amphipolis because we haven't been there since your birthday.)
CALLOUS / CALLUS
Callus is a noun or verb that means a hard thickened area on skin or bark or (as a verb) to form callus. That's what Xena has on her hands from all the sword work. Callous is an adjective which means being hardened and thickened or feeling no sympathy for others. (examples: "Callisto's callous attitude spread among her army." "Gabrielle rubbed the callus on Xena's hand with ointment.")
COMPLIMENT / COMPLEMENT
A compliment is an expression of respect, affection, or admiration. It can also be used as a verb, Complement is an amount needed to make something complete, or a counterpart.
DAMN / DAMN IT / DAMMIT
Damn is a noun, adjective, adverb, and verb. Dammit is the proper "contraction" of damn it. Damnit is not a word.
FARTHER / FURTHER
(from Websters Dictionary) Farther and further have been used more or less interchangeably throughout most of their history, but currently they are showing signs of diverging. As adverbs they continue to be used interchangeably whenever spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance is involved. But where there is no notion of distance, further is used. Further is also used as a sentence modifier (example: further, the workshop participants were scarcely optimistic), but farther is not. A polarizing process appears to be taking place in their adjective use. Farther is taking over the meaning of distance (example: "the farther shore) and further the meaning of addition (example: needed no further invitation).
FEWER / LESS
Fewer things can be _counted_. "Xena had fewer nicks in her armor." Less refers to things that cannot be counted. "The nicks were less deep."
I / ME
Always use 'I' when it's the subject of a sentence; when it's the object always use 'me'. For most of us, it isn't a problem in simple sentences. The difficulty comes when there are multiple subjects or objects. "Xena and I stripped down quickly." "Callisto said she was after both Xena and me." The same is true of he, she, we, and they--they're all subjects; while him, her, us, them are objects. "That will help Cyrene and us." When in doubt, hear the sentence without the "--and." Your ear will usually get it right. "That will help us," so "that will help Cyrene and us."
ITS / IT'S
There's no handy short cut; all you can do is memorize the rule. It's with an apostrophe means it is; its without an apostrophe means belonging to it. An analogue might provide a mnemonic: think of "he's" ("he is" gets an apostrophe) and "his" ("belonging to him" doesn't).
LIGHTENING / LIGHTNING
Lightening (three syllables) is a form of the verb 'to lighten,' meaning to illuminate, enlighten, or make lighter as a color. Lightening can also refer to lessening a burden. Lightning (two syllables) is what comes with thunder. (Example: The sun beat down on Gabrielle's BGSB, lightening it to a pale green. Xena and Gabrielle hid in the safety of a cave while they watched a spectacular lightning display in the sky. The thunder, however, scared Argo.)
LOSE / LOOSE
Lose is a verb meaning to miss from one's possessions, to fail to keep control of, let slip by, to undergo defeat in. (examples: You lose, Callisto. Gabrielle, don't lose your balance.) Loose can be a verb, adjective, or adverb. It means not rigidly fastened, having relative freedom of movement, lacking moral restraint or lacking in restraint. (example: The BGSB is loose: Xena unlaced it.)
RUEFUL / BASHFUL / UNCOMFORTABLE
Rueful is an adjective meaning exciting pity or sympathy. As an adverb, it is "ruefully." (example: Gabrielle worried Xena with her rueful sighing.) In the dialogue tag, "Xena said ruefully," it would mean Xena was looking for pity. "Xena said bashfully," means she was timid or shy about saying it. "Xena said uncomfortably," means she felt uneasy about saying it.
SENSUAL / SENSUOUS
Sensual and sensuous are virtually synonymous, but their usage DOES VARY slightly. (from Websters Dictionary) Sensuous implies gratification of the senses for the sake of aesthetic pleasure (example: "the sensuous delights of great music.") Sensual tends to imply the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of the physical appetites as ends in themselves. (example: "a life devoted to sensual pleasures.")
THAT / WHICH / WHO
(from Websters Dictionary) In current usage that refers to persons or things, which chiefly to things and rarely to subhuman entities, who chiefly to persons and sometimes to animals. The notion that that should not be used to refer to persons is without foundation; such use is entirely standard. Because that has no genitive form or construction, of which or whose must be substituted for it in contexts that call for the genitive.
THAT / WHICH (further clarification)
Although some handbooks say otherwise, that and which are both regularly used to introduce restrictive clauses in edited prose. Which is also used to introduce nonrestrictive clauses. That was formerly used to introduce nonrestrictive clauses; such use is virtually nonexistent in present-day edited prose, though it may occasionally be found in poetry.
For the curious, however, the relative pronoun that is restrictive, which means it tells you a necessary piece of information about its antecedent: for example, "The word processor that is used most often is WordPerfect." Here the that phrase answers an important question: which of the many word processors are we talking about? And the answer is the one that is used most often.
Which is non-restrictive: it does not limit the word it refers to. An example is "Penn's ID center, which is called CUPID, has been successful so far." Here that is unnecessary: the which does not tell us which of Penn's many ID centers we're considering; it simply provides an extra piece of information about the plan we're already discussing. "Penn's ID Center" tells us all we really need to know to identify it.
It boils down to this: if you can tell which thing is being discussed without the which or that clause, use which; if you can't, use that.
There are two rules of thumb you can keep in mind. First, if the phrase needs a comma, you probably mean which. Since "Penn's ID center" calls for a comma, we would not say "Penn's ID Center, that is called CUPID."
Another way to keep them straight is to imagine by the way following every which: "Penn's ID center, which (by the way) is called CUPID. . . ." The which adds a useful, but not grammatically necessary, piece of information. On the other hand, we wouldn't say "The word processor which (by the way) is used most often is WordPerfect," because the word processor on its own isn't enough information -- which word processor?
THEIR / THERE / THEY'RE
Their is an adjective of or relating to them or themselves especially as possessors, agents, or objects of an action (examples: their furniture, their verses, their being seen). It also has come into acceptable use as his or her (some scholars still disagree but the dictionaries list it as such.) (example: anyone in their opinion)
There refers to a place or a position. (examples: Xena went there. Gabrielle put the scroll there.) It can also be used as an interjection. (example: There, I finished it.) They're is a contraction of "they are."(Example: They're taking their time getting there.)
TAUGHT / TAUT / TAUNT
Taught is the past tense of to teach. Taut means having no slack or in proper condition. I.e. not loose and flabby. Taunt is a sarcastic insult or challenge. (example: Ephiny taught me the difference between Gabrielle's taut abs and Xena's tendency to taunt her opponents.)
WHO / WHOM
It's possible to memorize a rule for distinguishing who from whom, but it's easier to trust your ear. A simple test to see which is proper is to replace who/whom with he/him. If he sounds right, use who; if him is right, use whom. For example: since he did it and not him did it, use who did it; since we give something to him and not to he, use to whom. It gets tricky only when the preposition is separated from the who: Who/whom did you give it to? Rearrange the words in your head: To whom did you give it?
Another, more simple rule is "everything after a preposition is "whom."
YOUR / YOU'RE
Your is an adjective meaning of or relating to you or yourself. (example: Gabrielle is your friend.)
You're is a contraction of "you are." (Example: Xena thinks you're cute. Your friend think's you're a good bard.)
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