each and every
The mistake with the words each and every, especially when used in combination, are that they are singular and not plural. [The group is still active and each and every member has voted; but The group is still active and all members have voted]
each other or one another?
The expression each other applies to interactions or relationships between just two people or objects. The expression one another applies accordingly to three or more of the same. [The students all argued with one another; The (two) girls spoke to each other.]
each other's or each others'?
A common conundrum is: is it each others' country, each others' countries, each other's country or each other's countries? Each, as a word, implies singularity. Each other, a phrase, is treated as a plural because there are two, so countries is the right usage. Therefore the possessives of each of the individual's countries makes it each other's, not each others'. So: each other's countries is the only correct option.
Also, only use each other for interactions between two people, and one another when there are more than two. The two men spoke to each other while the group consulted one another.
earned or earnt?
See earnt or earned?
earth or Earth?
The word earth, with a small e, is another word for soil. The planet Earth is spelt with a big E because it's a name.
eastern Europe or Eastern Europe?
eastern Europe: Always use a small e because with a capital E it would have to be the name of an official region.
eastern Hemisphere or Eastern Hemisphere?
Use capitals for both.
earthy, earthen, earthly?
Earthen is the old form of 'earthy', while earthy relates to soil and earthly relates to the planet Earth.
The plural is echoes and its derivatives are echoing, echoer and echoey.
This overused word does not quite carry the meaning that people think it has. The main thing to know is that eclectic means 'chosen freely from a broad selection' and that therefore it does not imply 'exclusivity, careful selection' conveyed by words such as 'bespoke', 'unique', 'carefully designed' or 'specially selected'. Eclectic means freely or liberally selected, not specially selected.
E. coli or E Coli?
The bacteria Escherichia coli is shortened as E. coli with a capital E, a dot, space and lowercase c in italics.
economical or economic?
To start with, think of economic in terms of relating to economics and the economy. With this in mind, restrict economical to mean roughly 'frugal, cheap to run or use etc'. So an SUV can be economical, a house can be economical and a housewife or husband can be economical, i.e. good with money.
The mistake to avoid is things such as 'an economic SUV' or 'an economic purchase'. Leave economic for things like 'economic speech', 'economic conference'.
edgeways or edgewise?
The British use edgeways and the American variant is edgewise.
effete or effeminate?
Use effeminate for 'womanly man' by all means, but effete is no synonym. Instead, effete means 'worn out, depleted, exhausted or ineffectual', so in other words useless.
e.g. or eg?
Remember to keep the two dots in e.g., which is Latin for exempli gratia, or 'for the sake of an example'. Don't confuse e.g. with i.e. (which means roughly "in other words").
either: How is either pronounced?
Is it said "ee-ther" or "eye-ther"? A good majority of people opt for "eye-ther" most of the time when saying either and a minority choose "ee-ther". A good proportion of the "eye-ther" people will occasionally use "ee-ther". Almost no one will notice either way.
It is a myth that "ee-ther" developed in America and that "eye-ther" is the so-called 'correct' form. The OED states that the latter is "not in accordance with the analogies of Standard English", given its etymology (893: æᴁðere; 1297: eiþer) and orthographic form. The sound at this Old English period is likely to have been "air-ther" or "(s)ay-ther". The newer forms will have arisen during the Great Vowel Shift.
Orthoepists of the 1600s and noted that the "eye-ther" pronunciation arose in London in that century and that the two were interchangable even during the 1700s. It was not until the mid-1800s in the UK that any attempt was made to favour the abberation "eye-ther" over the original, primarily as a point of differentiation (shibboleth) by the so-called "educated classes" in Britain. Neither form today is more correct than the other, on both sides of the pond.
elderly or the elderly?
The word elderly is just an adjective. It is often considered impolite to speak of 'the elderly' as if they are creatures from another planet. Instead, just use elderly person or elderly people.
As a general rule it is not considered appropriate to call people 'elderly' until they are over the age of 70. At the end of the day, the purpose of this 'rule' is to consider avoiding offence. Some will not like being called elderly too soon.
electrocuted or electric shocks?
The proper meaning of electrocute is to kill by electric shock. Therefore it is wrong to say you were electrocuted – unless you are a ghost – or that surviving victims of torture "suffered electrocution". Better to say electric shocks.
elephant in the room
This is one cliché that should be avoided. There must be a better way if expressing yourself without this phrase, surely? Try the alternatives the overlooked point, the obvious ommission or even ... say what it is – unless, of course, you find yourself on safari and an elephant actually, is, in the room.
elk or moose?
Europe and Asia have their elks, while North America has its larger moose. American elks are a type of red deer not found on any other continent.
e-mail or email?
Though the formal spelling is e-mail, many people do write it as email. Most publications and publishers prefer the more formal hyphenated version e-mail.
plural of embargo
The plural is embargoes.
plural of embryo
The plural is embryos.
emend or amend?
There is a fine distinction between these two words that are good to know. First, amend is the general word meaning 'to correct, adjust, modify, update, put right or change'. Second, emend is the specialised word for correcting a text, document, bill etc. However, some dictionaries will also state that amend is also used for texts.
What you need to remember is that emend is used only with texts, while amend is used for physical objects etc, such as amend a dress – never "emend a dress". A text emend, once done, is called an emendation.
emigrate, migrate or immigrate?
Depends: When you permanently move out of another country you emigrate from it. When you move to another country permanently to immigrate into it, but if you only move there temporarily – and then onwards – you only migrate, which makes you a migrant and not an immigrant (sic). Migrants come and go. Immigrants come and stay.
eminent or imminent?
Eminent (one m) means esteemed, noteworthy; imminent (two) means occurring soon or (sometimes) threatening. Neither word is ever spelt with an -ant.
empathic or empathetic
Empathic is the only spelling.
plural of emphasis
The plural is emphases.
employment tribunal or industrial tribunal?
In the UK, the modern form is employment tribunal. The terms changed after reforms in 1998. There are no longer any such things as 'industrial tribunals' in the UK today, even though older journalists still report the existence of them from time to time.
plural of emporium
The plural is emporia.
enamelling or enameling?
It is enamelling in British English and enameling in the US.
enamoured or enamored?
Enamoured in the UK and enamored in the US.
enamoured of or enamored with?
The only correct combination is enamoured of and not 'enamoured with' or 'enamoured by', regardless of how common the false forms are. It has been this way for at least 500 years.
enclose or inclose?
Enclose: You enclose something inside an envelope, not 'inclose'.
encyclopedia or encyclopaedia?
encyclopedia: The days when it was encyclopaedia (or even older still, with an ae ligature) are, sadly, gone. Today the correct modern British spelling now matches that of the US spelling -- with just an e. Only the Times still insists on using encyclopaedia.
ended or ending?
...for the week ending/ended Thursday the 27th. Both are used and both are acceptable, though some will grumble and indicate a preference for one or the other. Having said that, ended appears more complete if it's used in referencing the past tense and ending seems more appropriate if it's a period in the future.
endorse or indorse?
endorse is the 21st-century spelling. It is no longer "indorse".
enforceable or enforcable?
England and English
It is not uncommon for non-Brits to confuse England, one country, with Britain, a united nation. This problem also afflicts many English. Abroad, it is not uncommon to hear or read about "England's" or "English" Prime Minister. In the UK, it is not uncommon for the national press, based in London, to write a feature about England's best schools and give it the inevitable headline "Britain's best schools". This assumes that schools in England are superior to those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is not incorrect for a tourist to London to say that they visited England, but a tourist to both Edinburgh and London may say either England and Scotland, or the UK or Britain. Make sure that you know which one you mean.
plural of enigma
The plural is enigmas.
enquire or inquire?
In British English to ask a question is to enquire. The usual spelling for the same in American English is inquire. See below for the noun.
enquiry or inquiry?
The verb enquire/inquire is explained in the section above, which is simple enough. When it comes to enquiry/inquiry national differences come out. In BrEng an enquiry is just "a question" while an inquiry is "a form of official investigation". In AmEng inquiry is used for both.
enrol or enroll?
It's enrol, enrolled, enrolling in British English and enroll, enroled, enroling in American English.
en suite or ensuite?
Always two words.
ensure or insure?
Depends: To ensure is to make sure or be certain of; to insure is when you pay money to guard against risk.
enthral or enthrall?
The spelling is enthral etc in British English and enthrall in American English. (See also enrol.)
enthralling or enthraling?
Actually, it's enthralling in both British and American English. The same is true for enthralled.
plural of ephemera
The plural is ephemeras.
epilepsy and epileptic
Be careful not to call someone epileptic. This is not for politically correct reasons but because people can't be described using a medical condition. A person can have epilepsy, but not be epileptic. Only fits and seizures are epileptic.
equalling or equaling?
It is equalling in British English and equaling in US, also equalled in British English and equaled in US.
This adjective, meaning former, is an archaic word that should remain solely in works of literature. If you are going to insist on dropping it in casual conversation, make sure you use it correctly. Don't confuse it to mean 'would be', as in My erstwhile colleague. If someone is your erstwhile colleague, they no longer work with you... This word should remain an erstwhile one.
escapees or escapers?
A quick way to win a bet or perhaps a free drink: ask someone if a person who escapes from jail is called an escapee or an escaper. Nine times out of ten you'll hear the former. Show them a dictionary and order your drink.
espresso or expresso?
This mistake is easily done because most people even say it with an -x-. The correct spelling is, of course, espresso.
The word ethnic does always get its proper treatment. An ethnic minority is an ethnic community, and ethnic is not s synonym for foreign food. Be careful how you use the word foreign too.
euro or Euro?
You can change your money into dollars or euros. There is no need to use a capital E unless you are describing the Euro(pean) area. The plural of euro is euros. And last, despite what is done in some countries, in English the euro symbol goes in front of the sum, just like every other currency symbol: €100, £100 and $100, not 100€, 100£ and 100$.
Europe and European
Britain is a part of Europe, and is therefore also in Europe. Airlines often advertise "flights to Europe" (sic) as if it is a different place. It is common to hear or read comparisons between Britain and "Europe", which is wrong. Use mainland Europe or the rest of Europe instead.
Cynical Europeans from the mainland might be inclined to call it "real" Europe. Cynical Brits will never accept being part of the European Union (political) or Europe (geographical) as a continent.
The only point being made in this section is that, for those who get a kick out of verbal preciseness, using 'flights to Europe' in a British travel advertisement is equally generic as 'flights to Britain' when going London to Edinburgh. It is redundant. This is linguistic, not political, pedantry.
This word is spreading like a virus across the retailing scene. It has become fashionable to announce retail 'events' (sic) when all that takes place is that a number of items are sold at a reduced price: in the real world this is called a sale. I realise that when every store has the word 'SALE' emblazoned on every window, it's hard to stand out from the crowd. That does not justify eroding the true meaning of the word event.
Today I saw an ad for a company announcing a 'triple points event' (sic), and they didn't even bother to hyphenate it. What they wrote in the fine print was that you had to spend £100 or more in one purchase using their loyalty card to receive three times the usual points. No invitation was needed and there was no free Champagne anywhere.
everyday or every day?
depends: Something either occurs 'every day' (the sun comes up) or it's unimportant enough to be an 'everyday' thing (like a pair of socks). Every day means, every day. Everyday means commonplace.
every parent's nightmare
And you thought that the world was running out of clichés. This particular one is a favourite of hacks. Good writers remove them from their repertoire.
eye level or eye-level?
eyewitness or witness?
Remember that eyewitness and witness are the same thing. Also, the eye- in eyewitness is redundant so witness is preferred, whether at the scene of a crime or in a legal context.
I for one feel that the poor old exclamation mark is the victim of systematic bullying and ostracism. Banished from the publishing world and therefore the printed page, this quite legitimate punctuation mark lives on in text messaging and the Internet!
Lazy journalists with a degree of literary bloodlust love using the phrase execution style. This is because they know that their editor won't let them get away with execution on its own. The correct use of execution is to describe a death sentence by lawful authority. Even a person murdered in a bloody gang feud is hardly going to be killed execution style. There is bound to be less ceremony and little paperwork, for a start.
The couple were only interested in viewing existing homes. Yes, you could argue that they don't want to buy off-plan (based on drawings and a brochure before a building is built), but nothing else in this world comes in the existing variety, so why should houses? Old may not always sound enticing, but in the case of houses, there really only are new and old ones. We don't talk about 'existing hotel rooms' -- no matter how many people have stayed there before us. They are just rooms. What's wrong with just home?
expat or ex-pat?
The correct use is expat and expatriate, not expatriot.
extol or extoll?
The correct spelling is extol in both British and American English. However, 'extoll' exists as a variant spelling in the US.
This page last updated: 15 November 2014
Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.