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Wrong-Word Errors

A wrong-word error occurs when a student misuses a word, apparently because s/he does not fully understand the meaning of that word:

Abraham Lincoln once quoted, "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being" (qtd. in Achor 109).

Abraham Lincoln is credited with originating the quotation above, but saying "Abraham Lincoln once quoted . . . " implies that Lincoln merely repeated what someone else had already said. There are several ways to improve the passage, including:

Abraham Lincoln once stated, "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. . . ."

Abraham Lincoln has been quoted as saying, "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. . . ."

Although we classify homophone errors--e.g.: site for cite or sight--as misspellings, we classify "near homophones" as wrong-word errors:

A little cold or flu could turn into a serious case of ammonia.

He had been given a slow-acting poison, and the only antic dote was in the safe beside him.

Since a listener is apt to notice when a speaker says ammonia instead of pneumonia or antic dote and antidote, these particular errors seem to be wrong-word errors rather than misspellings.

Writing Center

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Writing Center
Clark Memorial Library Room 120 

Shawnee State University
940 Second Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662

Phone: (740) 351-3488
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