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Writing a powerful essay requires fully understanding the words you use, whether writing about a simple or complex subject. Proper word usage is necessary to convey the message to your audience and allows the reader to comprehend what you are trying to say. Here are some of the most commonly confused/misused words found in essays:


The words “accept” and “except” are homophones and easy to misuse, especially when writing in a rush. Knowing the difference between the two can help you choose the correct word. “Accept” means to receive something willingly. Example: She was eager to accept her new engagement ring. The word “except” means to exclude. Example: He was eager to begin his new job, except for the fact he would have to relocate.


If you share a positive thought about something or someone, you are giving a “compliment.” Example: He received a compliment for his outstanding performance. When something “complements” another, the two items/ideas go well together. Example: My husband’s love for cooking complements my passion for baking.


The word “effect” is a noun describing the impact of an event or feeling. Example: The effect my professor had on me was immeasurable. “Affect” is an adjective that describes an action. Example: The devastating storms likely affect the population of the small town.


Desert and dessert are easily mistaken because of their similar spelling. If you are out on a dry, hot day, you might say “It feels like a desert out here.” On the other hand, a delicious, sweet after-dinner treat is a “dessert.”


“Capitol” is generally used to describe a city where the government of a state or country resides. Example: The capitol of Michigan is located in the city of Lansing. When you are looking to raise money for any reason (such as a business investment), you are seeking “capital.” Example: We were able to raise $2 million in capital this year alone.

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