Little Book of Confusables

Adverse vs averse: simple tips to remember the difference

ADVERSE vs AVERSE – simple tips to remember the difference

ADVERSE and AVERSE are easy to confuse. They may sound similar but they have different meanings… and I have a simple tip to remember the difference between them.

ADVERSE means harmful or unfavourable. It’s often used with the word ‘effects’ – particularly by newsreaders and journalists – like this: “the local area is feeling the adverse effects of the decision to close the factory,” or, “Adverse weather conditions over the weekend caused havoc in the town.”

The best way to remember the spelling of adverse is to think of the D in adverse and D for damage.

AVERSE means having a strong dislike for something. It’s often followed by the word ‘to’: for example, “I’m averse to bad weather” or used in a phrase like ‘risk-averse’.

ADVERSE and AVERSE are both fairly formal, slightly stuffy-sounding words, so you may be better off rewording your sentence altogether to avoid them.

Confusables adverse vs averse. Language and spelling tips from copywriter Sarah Townsend Editorial

Confusables: adverse vs averse. Language and spelling tips from UK copywriter Sarah Townsend Editorial

 

Less vs fewer. A simple tip to get it right every time

There are two types of people – those who are irritated by supermarket Five items or less signs (Fewer! It should be FEWER!) and those who don’t know the difference. Do you know the super simple tip to tell them apart?

Use LESS for things you can’t count:

  • less sunshine
  • less work
  • less coffee

Use FEWER for things you can count (like the items in your shopping basket):

  • fewer words
  • fewer buttons
  • fewer cupcakes

So there you go. If you can count it, use FEWER. If you can’t, use LESS.

More tips = fewer mistakes + less confusion.

Bonus tip

Once you know that things you can count are called ‘count nouns’ and things you can’t count are called ‘mass nouns’ you can apply the same logic to MANY and MUCH.

Use MANY for things you can count, and MUCH for things you can’t.

For example:

  • Using too many words can confuse your message.
  • Too much confusion can prevent customers from choosing your business.
LESS vs FEWER: spelling tips to remember the difference

LESS vs FEWER: spelling tips to remember the difference

Why failing to proofread is losing you business

Whether you like it or not, mistakes in your marketing cost you customers and sales. Online errors can affect your search rankings, and sloppy spelling drives potential customers to question your credibility, and buy from your competitors, instead.

We’ve all seen examples of pitiful proofreading that make us cringe. How do you make sure your business isn’t next in line for the hall of shame?

We’re all under pressure – our inboxes are full of unanswered messages, our ‘to do’ lists get longer when they should be getting shorter, and there are never enough hours in the day… it’s no surprise we end up cutting corners.

You’re too close to your own work to proofread it yourself, and your colleagues are just as busy so there’s no point asking them for help.

Avoid the pitfalls of pitiful proofreading

Your marketing literature, website and social media accounts are often the first contact potential clients have with your business. You budget for design and print – even copywriting – yet how often have you risked your investment by skimping on proofreading… then found embarrassing typos in the finished product?

A 2013 study revealed that 59 per cent of UK consumers wouldn’t use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing material because they wouldn’t trust the company to provide good quality service. Others were put off due to an obvious lack of care, and considered the business to be unprofessional as a result of the mistakes.

Spellcheck schmellcheck

So you don’t have time to proofread but you’ve run a spellcheck so it’s okay, right? Wrong. Spellcheck doesn’t know if you’ve repeated a word, or left one out, neither does it know if you’ve used the right word – it only knows whether the words you’ve used are spelled incorrectly (that’s one C, two Rs).

Computers can’t check context: they don’t know if you meant there, their or they’re, affect or effect, loose or lose. And – oops! – you just spelt manager as manger. Sorry, it won’t spot that either. P45 anyone?

Each time you rely on spellcheck you risk mistakes and errors in your writing. Homophones – words that sound the same, but have different spellings and different meanings, like the examples below – are partly to blame:

  • your, you’re
  • to, too, two
  • there, they’re, their
  • sight, site
  • board, bored

So, don’t sack your spellchecker, but don’t rely on it to do your job for you – it’s never a substitute for proofreading. Consider professional proofreading as security on your investment. It may be another expense, but it’ll pay for itself many times over.

As the saying goes, ‘There’s never time to do it right, but always time to do it again.’ Don’t learn the hard way.