• Lindsey McCaffrey: Premium Content Writer & Editor

Lay or Lie? Affect or Effect? Assure, Ensure or Insure? 11 Memes to Help You Use the Right Words

Misused words pop up all the time in business' written content. But they don't have to.

"What's the word I should use again?"

"Is it X, Y ... or Z?"

"Why can't I ever remember the rules about this word?"

Sound familiar? We all have at least a couple words that mix us up when we're writing. (Myself included - keep reading.)

And hey, mistakes happen. To all of us.

But far too often, I see words misused in business' written content. And that can negatively affect how people perceive your organization and brand.

So what's the big deal about a few misused words?

You may be thinking the occasional written error isn't that much of a concern.

I beg to differ. When word misuse appears to be a pattern, this can:

  • Significantly decrease the chances your business message will be understood

  • Reflect poorly on your organization's credibility and intelligence

  • Indicate that your business doesn't care about the small (but often most significant to customers) details

In other words: never underestimate the importance of clean, clear, correct content to people whose money and attention you seek.

No, not everyone will notice your errors.

But many people will.

So without further ado, here is a list of some of the most confusing and misused words I often see in business' written content.

1. i.e. and e.g.

Not sure when (or where) to use i.e or e.g.?

Both abbreviations are often used in the same documents (e.g., longer-form content like industry or research reports). Both are also Latin and, even spelled out in full, may not make sense to the average person.

Plus ... sometimes both i.e. and e.g. can apply.

So it's easy to get them confused.

Here's a handy chart with literal definitions of each abbreviation. Refer to this to figure out whether i.e. or e.g. work best in your writing.

2. Assure, insure, and ensure

Said aloud, all three words sound similar. Remarkably, assure, insure and ensure even have similar meanings.

So which word should you use ... and when?

Rather than memorize definitions, here's a great sentence that simplifies and differentiates each term.

3. Lie and lay

I admit it - lie and lay are two words that make me run to Google every time I need to write them.

For some reason, I just can't commit to memory the proper uses of lie and lay!

Thankfully, there are lots of resources to turn to when I need a reminder.

Here's a good one that shares their definitions PLUS how to use them in specific tenses:

Or, if you just want something simple (and cute) to post on your wall, here's another meme:

4. A lot and allot

Put simply:

  • allot is a verb that means "to give something"

  • a lot is an adjective that refers to a large number of amount

Also - never ever write "alot." There is no such word!

(Surprise - sometimes spelling and grammar can be fun! I promise: check out this hilarious blog about the creature Alot.)

5. Peek, peak and pique

I see these three words used incorrectly in professionally written content all the time. It truly is a tricky homophone for many people.

Luckily, this image beautifully simplifies the differences between the three words:

6. Affect and effect

Figuring out whether to use affect or effect in a sentence can be quite tricky.

That's because both words sound very similar. Plus, despite distinct definitions for each, there can be a lot of overlap and interchangeability.

Here's a tip for figuring out whether to use affect or effect in your writing. Please note: it's not correct 100% of the time, but should help you in about 90% of cases:

  • Effect is the end result. Think Effect = End Result. Effect is usually used as a noun.

  • Affect is the cause - what creates or leads to the end result. It is generally used as a verb, or action word. Think Affect = Action.

Here's another way to recognize the differences between the two words:

7. Its vs. it's

There's something very strange about these two tiny words.

No matter how often its and it's are injected into the content we read, people frequently confuse them in writing.

At its most basic:

  • its refers to something that belongs to someone or something

  • it's is a shortened version of it is or it has

8. Your and you're

Such popular words ... and so often misused!

Here's the simplest of tips:

  • You're is just a shortened way of writing you are. The apostrophe just connects the two words together.

  • Your is all about belonging (similar to its, mentioned above).

And, for added measure, here is one of my favourite memes (because #nottodaysatan):

Why I wrote this blog

I've actually been wanting to create a blog like this for quite some time.

My challenge was how to make it easy to understand without talking down to my readers.

(Because, as I mentioned earlier, we all make mistakes. This is nothing to be ashamed of.)

At the same time, I wanted to make this blog fun and informative. So informative, in fact, that you'd be compelled to bookmark this page or print the whole thing out.

My hope is that this will become one of your most useful resources to turn to when you write and/or publish content.

As such, I send you many well wishes for the best written content ever!

Prefer to just draft your content ... and then pass over to an expert?

Learn more about my professional content editing and proofreading services.


Get smart, strategic, clear PREMIUM content for your organization or business! With 20 years of expertise, Lindsey McCaffrey is an award-winning writer, editor and content strategist specializing in website content, case studies, industry and annual reports, article writing, white papers, direct mail and more. Contact Lindsey today to discuss your custom content needs.