Common Errors Starting with B

back vs forward vs up in time

<p>These words can cause confusion when used to talk about the time of an event. When some people say “Let’s move the meeting back”, they mean earlier. </p><p>Other people understand it mean later....

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backslash vs slash

This is a slash: /. Because the top of it leans forward, it is sometimes called a “forward slash.”This is a backslash: \. Notice the way it leans back, distinguishing it from the regular slash.Slas...

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backup vs back up

<p>Backup is a noun meaning a person or thing that can give help or support if needed. </p><pre>“The fire department called for backup when they saw how large the fire was.” </pre><p>Back up is a p...

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backward vs backwards

As an adverb, either word will do: “put the shirt on backward” or “putthe shirt on backwards.” However, as an adjective, only “backward” willdo: “a backward glance.” When in doubt, use “backward.”

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backyard vs back yard

The thing itself is a two-word phrase: you grow vegetables in your back yard. The adjective form that describes the location of something behind your house is a single word: you have a backyard veg...

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bad vs badly

In informal speech “bad” is sometimes used as an adverb: “the toilet was leaking pretty bad” or “my arm hurt so bad I thought it was broken.” In formal writing, “badly” is preferred in both contexts.

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bail vs bale

<p>Bail is a sum of money paid or exchanged for the release of an arrested person for guarantee of the person's appearance for possible trial. </p><pre>"We couldn't pay the bail money, it was quite...

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bailout vs bail out

Whether you are bailing out a rowboat or a bank, use the two-word spelling to describe the action of doing it (the verb form): “we need to bail out the boat before we can go fishing.”But to label t...

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baited breath vs bated breath

Although the odor of the chocolate truffle you just ate may be irresistible bait to your beloved, the proper expression is “bated breath.” “Bated” here means “held, abated.” You do something with b...

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baldfaced vs boldfaced vs barefaced

The only one of these spellings recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning “shameless” is “barefaced.” Etymologies often refer to the prevalence of beards among Renaissance Englishmen, ...

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ball vs bawl

To “bawl” is to cry out loudly, so when you break down in tears you bawl like a baby and when you reprimand people severely you bawl them out. Don’t use “ball” in these sorts of expressions. It has...

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bar-b-q, barbeque vs barbecue

Casual restaurants like to advertise “BAR-B-Q” and you often see the spelling “barbeque” and variations like “barbaque,” but the standard form is “barbecue.”

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barb wire, bob wire vs barbed wire

In some parts of the country this prickly stuff is commonly called “barbwire” or even “bob wire.” When writing for a general audience, stickwith the standard “barbed wire.”

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bare vs bear

<p>Bare means to go completely naked, by either removing clothes or showing something in its basic form.</p><pre>"Tell him not to walk on the grass bare footed."</pre><p>Bear, traditionally means t...

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barter vs haggle

When you offer to trade your vintage jeans for a handwoven shirt in Guatemala, you are engaged in barter—no money is involved. One thing (or service) is traded for another.But when you offer to buy...

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base vs bass

Like Billy the singing bass, things musical are usually “bass”: bass guitars, bass drums, bass clefs. Don’t use the more common word “base” in such contexts.

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based around, based off of vs based on

You can build a structure around a center; but bases go on the bottom of things, so you can’t base something around something else. Similarly, you can build something off of a starting point, but y...

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basicly vs basically

<p>‘Basicly’ seems logical enough, doesn’t it? We learn that adding ‘ly’ makes a word an adverb. But there are variations on how we add ‘ly’, and in this case we have to expand it to ‘ally’. </p><p...

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basises vs bases

<p>Bases is the inflected form of the word, base which means a foundation from which other things extend from. It also means a basic yet essential component of a structure.</p><pre>"The item has a ...

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bazaar vs bizarre

A “bazaar” is a market where miscellaneous goods are sold. “Bizarre,” in contrast, is an adjective meaning “strange,” “weird.”

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beat vs bead

In American English when you focus narrowly on something or define it carefully you “get a bead” or “draw a bead” on it. In this expression the term “bead” comes from the former name for the little...

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beaurocracy vs bureaucracy

The French bureaucrats from whom we get this word worked at their bureaus (desks, spelled bureaux in French) in what came to be known as bureaucracies.

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beckon call vs beck and call

This is a fine example of what linguists call “popular etymology.” People don’t understand the origins of a word or expression and make one up based on what seems logical to them. “Beck” is just an...

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began vs begun

<p>Began is a conjugate of the irregular verb "to begin" which means to start or proceed with something. It is the past tense of begin.</p> <pre>"As soon as it had arrived, David began to open the...

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begs the question

An argument that improperly assumes as true the very point the speaker is trying to argue for is said in formal logic to “beg the question.” Here is an example of a question-begging argument: “This...

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begs belief vs beggars belief

You beggar people by impoverishing them, reducing them to beggary. This term now survives mainly in metaphorical expressions such as “it beggars description” (exhausts my ability to describe it) or...

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behaviors

“Behavior” has always referred to patterns of action, including multiple actions, and did not have a separate plural form until social scientists created it. Unless you are writing in psychology, s...

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being that vs because

Using “being that” to mean “because” is nonstandard, as in “Being that the bank robber was fairly experienced, it was surprising that he showed the teller his ID card when she asked for it.” “Being...

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belief vs believe

People can’t have religious “believes”; they have religious beliefs. If you have it, it’s a belief; if you do it, you believe.

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below table vs table below

As an author/writer, when you are referring to a table or a figure below the text, you will say "in the table below" or "in the figure below". "In the below table" is incorrect. "In the table bel...

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bemuse vs amuse

When you bemuse someone, you confuse them, and not necessarily in anentertaining way. Don’t confuse this word with “amuse.”

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benefactor vs beneficiary

<p>Benefactor is someone who gives people gifts usually in form of money or charity or via an organization.</p><pre>"That man is so many people's benefactor, he has helped a lot."</pre><p>Beneficia...

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beside vs besides

“Besides” can mean “in addition to” as in “besides the puppy chow, Spotscarfed up the filet mignon I was going to serve for dinner.” “Beside,”in contrast, usually means “next to.” “I sat beside Che...

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better

When Chuck says “I better get my research started; the paper’s duetomorrow,” he means “I had better,” abbreviated in speech to “I’dbetter.” The same pattern is followed for “he’d better,” “she’d be...

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between

“Between 1939 to 1945” is obviously incorrect to most people—it should be “between 1939 and 1945”—but the error is not so obvious when it is written thus: “between 1939-1949.” In this case, the “be...

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bias vs biased

<p>‘Bias’ means a treating people or groups unfairly because you have a conscious or unconscious belief that some people or ideas are better than others. You’ll often see the phrases ‘racial bias’ ...

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bible

Whether you are referring to the Jewish Bible (the Torah plus the Prophets and the Writings) or the Protestant Bible (the Jewish Bible plus the New Testament), or the Catholic Bible (which contains...

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bicep vs biceps

A biceps is a single muscle with two attaching tendons at one end. Although “bicep” without the S is often used in casual speech, this spelling is frowned on in medical and anatomical contexts.

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biweekly vs semiweekly

Technically, a biweekly meeting occurs every two weeks and a semiweeklyone occurs twice a week; but so few people get this straight that yourclub is liable to disintegrate unless you avoid these wo...

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blatant

The classic meaning of “blatant” is “noisily conspicuous,” but it has long been extended to any objectionable obviousness. A person engaging in blatant behavior is usually behaving in a highly obje...

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blindsighted vs blindsided

<p>To hit or attack (an opponent) from their blind side is to blindside him. The 2008 stock market crash blindsided many investors. "Blindsighted" is a misspelling. "Blindsided" is correct.</p><p>B...

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block vs bloc

“Block” has a host of uses, including as the spelling in the phrase “block of time.” But for groups of people and nations, use the French spelling bloc: “bloc of young voters,” “Cold War-era Easter...

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blunt vs brunt

Some people mistakenly substitute the adjective “blunt” for the noun ”brunt” in standard expressions like “bear the brunt.” “Brunt” means “main force.”

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boarders vs borders

<p>Boarders is the inflected form of the word, boarder which means a pupil who lives within the school premises during term time.</p><pre>"You're going to be a boarder next term."</pre><p>Borders i...

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bonafied vs bona fide

Bona fide is a Latin phrase meaning “in good faith,” most often used tomean “genuine” today. It is often misspelled as if it were the pasttense of an imaginary verb: “bonafy.”

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bonds vs bounds

In expressions like “beyond the bounds of credibility” and “beyond the bounds of decency” the word “bounds” is short for “boundaries,” and means “limits.” Many people transform these sayings by sub...

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born out of vs born of

Write “my love of dance was born of my viewing old Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire movies,” not “born out of.” The latter expression is probably substituted because of confusion with the expression “bor...

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born vs borne

<p>Borne is widely known as the past participle of the verb, bear which is applicable to all situations except birth. </p><pre>"Most diseases out here are waterborne."</pre><p>Born is also a past p...

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borrow vs loan

In some dialects it is common to substitute “borrow” for “loan” or “lend,” as in “borrow me that hammer of yours, will you, Jeb?” In standard English the person providing an item can loan it; but t...

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both vs each

There are times when it is important to use “each” instead of “both.” Few people will be confused if you say “I gave both of the boys a baseball glove,” meaning “I gave both of the boys baseball gl...

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both

“Both” refers to two items only. It is easy in speech to absent-mindedly add items to an initial pair and wind up saying things like “I like both mangos and papayas and Asian pears.” Try to avoid t...

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bought vs brought

<p>Brought means to move something or someone to a place or person. It is the past participle of the word, bring. </p><pre>"As soon as she got to work, she brought a cup of steaming hot coffee to t...

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boughten vs bought

<p>Bought is the past tense of the original word, 'buy' which means to purchase something or an item for a price paid for with currency.</p><pre>"I bought some watermelons on my way back."</pre><p>...

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bounce vs bounds

A leaky ball may be out of bounce, but when it crosses the boundary line off the basketball court or football field it goes out of bounds. Similarly, any action or speech that goes beyond proper li...

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bourgeois

In the original French, a bourgeois was originally merely a free inhabitant of a bourg, or town. Through a natural evolution it became the label for members of the property-owning class, then of th...

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bouyant vs buoyant

Buoys are buoyant. In the older pronunciation of “buoyant” as “bwoyant” this unusual spelling made more sense. Now that the pronunciation has shifted to “boyant” we have to keep reminding ourselves...

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bow

When it shoots arrows, plays your violin, or secures your shoelaces, “bow” rhymes with “go.” When it’s a respectful bending of the body or the front end of a ship, it rhymes with “cow” and sounds j...

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brainchild

Some people misuse “brainchild,” as in “Steve Jobs is the brainchild behind the iPhone.” A brainchild is not a person, but the child (product) of someone’s brain. So the iPhone is the brainchild of...

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brake vs break

<p>Break means to separate into two or more pieces which can't be possibly reversed for fixing. It can also mean a short time observed for rest after working for hours.</p><pre>A. "The Boss has per...

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brand names

Popular usage frequently converts brand names into generic ones, with the generic name falling into disuse. Few people call gelatin dessert mix anything other than “Jell-O,” which helps to explain ...

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brang, brung vs brought

<p>‘Brought’ is the standard past tense and past participle of bring. </p><pre>“I brought my laptop with me so I could take notes.”</pre><p> However, you’ll hear ‘brang’ or ‘brung’ instead in some ...

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breach vs breech

<p>Breach is the act of breaking in a figurate sense of a contract, promise or relations.</p><pre>"James said he was filing a case of breach of contract to the court."</pre><p>Breech has the histor...

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breakup vs break up

A breakup is what happens when two people break up. The one-word form is the result, whereas the two-word form is the action that leads to it.

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breath vs breathe

<p>Breath is the air expelled from the lungs inspired by the single act of breathing in or out.</p><pre>"I can't hold my breath for long."</pre><p>Breathe means to repeatedly draw air and expel fro...

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breeches

The most common pronunciation of this word referring to pants rhymes with “itches.” The more phonetic spelling “britches” is perfectly acceptable.

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bring vs take

When you are viewing the movement of something from the point of arrival, use “bring”: “When you come to the potluck, please bring a green salad.” Viewing things from the point of departure, you sh...

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broach vs brooch

A decorative pin is a “brooch” even though it sounds like “broach”—a quite different word. Although some dictionaries now accept the latter spelling for jewelry, you risk looking ignorant to many r...

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broke vs broken

<p>If you are broke, you are out of money. If something is broken, it needs to be fixed or replaced. </p><pre>“I would fix my broken bicycle, but I’m broke!”</pre><p> Broken is also the past partic...

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brunt vs butt

A person who is the target of jokers is the butt of their humor (from an old meaning of the word “butt”: target for shooting at). But the object of this joking has to bear the brunt of the mockery ...

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bullion vs bouillon

Gold bricks are bullion. Boil down meat stock to get bouillon. It’s an expensive mistake to confuse bullion with bouillon in a recipe.

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bully pulpit

We occasionally still use the old positive meaning of the word “bully” when congratulating somebody (sincerely or sarcastically) by saying “Bully for you!” A century ago “bully” meant “good,” “grea...

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bumrush vs bum’s rush

A 1987 recording by the rap group Public Enemy popularized the slang term “bumrush” as a verb meaning “to crash into a show hoping to see it for free,” evidently by analogy with an earlier usage in...

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but . . . however vs but, however

Since “but” and “however” perform the same function in a sentence, it’s not appropriate to use them together. Suppose you have written “but the cake he made for my birthday, however, was his old gi...

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butt naked vs buck naked

The standard expression is “buck naked,” and the contemporary “butt naked” is an error that will get you laughed at in some circles. However, it might be just as well if the new form were to triump...

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buttox vs buttocks

<p>Buttocks basically refers to either of the two meaty protuberances for the back and lower part of the human trunk.<br></p><pre>"The nurse asked me to show my buttocks so she could inject it."</p...

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by vs ’bye vs buy

<p>By means next to or near to a particular object or someone. </p><pre>"Mary stood by her husband till the very end of the trial."</pre><p>Bye is a colloquial word for goodbye which means to say f...

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by far and away vs by far, far and away

You could say that Halloween is by far your favorite holiday, or you can say that it’s far and away your favorite holiday; but if you combine the two expressions and say “by far and away” you’ll an...

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beyond the pail vs beyond the pale

A pale is originally a stake of the kind which might make up a palisade, or enclosure. The uncontrolled territory outside was then “beyond the pale.” The expression “beyond the pale” came to mean “...

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