Owning a creative content agency in Bozeman, Montana, means that we end up reviewing almost as much copy as we create. Many clients come to us with a pre-existing arsenal of content, and we always look at what they have done before we do anything for them. With this large amount of copywriting we produce and review, we are bound to see mistakes and to make them. But, the best type of mistake is one that you can learn from, and copywriting is no exception. Some of the best copywriters have developed memory tricks over time based on the root and usage of the words. This list is only a handful, but stay tuned for copywriting missteps volumes two and three shortly.

This list features some of the most common misused words that come across our editing desk. Take note, and next time you put pen or cursor to paper, remember these ten pesky words that can trip you up.

  1. Breath and Breathe

Breath is a noun. Breathe is a verb. When you breathe, you inhale and exhale breath. Subtle difference here with the spelling, but contextually, it can make all of the difference.

Memory tip: Adding the "e" makes it a verb, which also has an "e" in it.

  1. Angel and Angle

Both are nouns. An angel is a heavenly being, while an angle is a space between two lines that have a common point. The positioning of the le/el is the kicker here and always causes me to pause for a hot second to think it through.

Memory tip: The end of the word angle is also the beginning of the word gleam, and light can gleam off of angles.

  1. Accept and Except

Accept is a verb that means to receive. Except is usually a preposition, and it means excluding.

Memory tip: Except and exclude both share "exc" at the beginning of the word.

  1. Affect and Effect

Affect is usually a verb, and effect is usually a noun. To affect something is to change or influence it, and an effect is something that happens due to a cause. When you affect something, it produces an effect.

Memory tip: Architect rhymes with affect, and they both start with an "a," so architects affect a structure's outcome, producing an effect.

  1. Capitol and Capital

Capitol refers to a building where lawmakers meet. Capital refers to a city. Capital also refers to wealth or resources, the death penalty, and capital letters.

Memory tip: Remember capitol because it has less possible meanings. Once you rule that out, you can be sure capital is what you're after. Do this by remembering that the location where lawmakers meet can take a toll on everyone. Capitol and toll sound the same. 

  1. Climactic, Climatic

Climactic is derived from climax, the point of greatest intensity in a series or progression of events. Climatic comes from climate, and it refers to meteorological conditions. 

Memory tip: Climate change affects the sea, and climatic only has one "c."

  1. Elicit and Illicit

Elicit is a verb meaning to evoke or bring out. Illicit is an adjective meaning unlawful.

Memory tip: Illicit and illegal share the same "ill" start, and if you need a little extra memory, elicit starts with "e," and so does evoke.

  1. Principle and Principal

A principal is a person that is usually the head of a school or organization. It can also mean a sum of money. Principle is a noun meaning basic truth.

Memory tip: The principal of the organization is nice, and you'd like to be pals.

  1. Than and Then

Than is a conjunction used in comparisons. Then is an adverb marking time.

Memory tip: Then tells when; both are spelled the same except for the first letter.

  1. Your and You're

Your is a possessive pronoun. You're is the contraction of you are.

Memory tip: There are no great letter or sound tricks to remember this one. The best bet is to simply say the sentence out loud; hearing it helps clear any confusion. For example:

"Your hair looks great today," not "You are hair looks great today."

So, there you have it, our first assessment of Bozeman's most commonly misused words in the copywriting and content we review. I know we have been guilty of them a time or to.

Did you catch us on what could be considered #11?

Here's one more for extra credit.

  1. To, Too, and Two

To is a preposition. Too is an adverb. Two is a number.


Memory tip: Two is always a number. Rule that out first and then decipher between to or too. Too is usually used to add or include additional information, and additional or add has two "d's," and too has two "o's." It's the rule of two for determining when to use too.