Although few people compare with the likes of, say, George W. Bush in creative applications of the English language, most of us have at one time or another used the wrong word in writing or speaking. Following are five misused word pairs we’ve seen in recent months at ProofreadNOW.com.
Incidence — the number of times something happens or develops.
Incidents — unexpected and usually unpleasant occurrences.
Example: Asian countries have a higher incidence of giant cell arteritis, meaning that more incidents of GCA occur there than anywhere else in the world.
Note that incidences is not a word.
Regime — a form of government or system of management; regimen.
Regimen — a systematic plan or regular course of action, especially as related to health.
Example: The hospital’s new regime mandated that all employees adhere to a strict diet and exercise regimen.
Although regime is sometimes used interchangeably with regimen (and such usage is acceptable per Merriam-Webster and common in British English), many favor distinguishing the two terms for clarity’s sake.
Tortuous — having many twists and turns; complicated, long and confusing.
Torturous — causing great pain or suffering.
Example: Thirty years ago, Judith thought the bar exam was torturous; little did she know it would launch her on a tortuous path leading to her appointment as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.
Note the extra r and the word torture embedded in torturous.
Trouper — a member of a troupe or someone who persists through difficulty or hardship without complaint.
Trooper — a low-ranking soldier or state police officer.
Example: The trooper who continued searching for the missing boy long after everyone else had abandoned hope was a real trouper.
Welcome — to greet hospitably or accept something with happiness or pleasure (verb); received with gladness or delight (adjective); a greeting or reception (noun).
Welcomed — past tense of welcome (verb).
Example: Marilou welcomed feedback from all employees, as evidenced by the sign in big, bold letters on her door: “All suggestions welcome.”
You could say, “All suggestions welcomed,” but that casts the sentence in passive voice, raising the question, “Welcomed by whom?”
We welcome you to comment below about any other word pairs you find troublesome — either because you’re not sure how to use them or because you regularly encounter others using them incorrectly.