Common Errors Starting with H

hadn’t have vs hadn’t

Many people throw in an extra “have” when they talkabout things that might have happened otherwise: “Ifhe hadn’t have checked inside the truck first he wouldn’thave realized that the floorboards we...

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hail vs hale

<p>Hail, naturally is pieces of ice falling as precipitation, often with a thunderstorm close by. </p><p>It could also mean to greet or praise someone enthusiastically.</p><pre>"He was hailed as a ...

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hairbrained vs harebrained

Although “hairbrained” is common, the original word “harebrained” means“silly as a hare” (the little rabbit-like creature) and is preferred in writing.

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hand and hand vs hand in hand

“Poverty goes hand in hand with malnutrition.” The image here is of the two subjects holding hands, one hand in the other. The phrase is very frequently misspelled “hand and hand,” which does not c...

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handicap vs disability

In normal usage, a handicap is a drawback you can easily remedy, but a disability is much worse: you’re just unable to do something. But many people with disabilities and those who work with them s...

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hanged vs hung

Originally these words were pretty much interchangeable, but “hanged” eventually came to be used pretty exclusively to mean “executed by hanging.” Does nervousness about the existence of an indelic...

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hanging indents

Bibliographies are normally written using hanging indents, where thefirst line extends out to the left-hand margin, but the rest of theentry is indented. Recently this sort of thing is also being c...

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hanukkah, chanukah

This Jewish holiday is misspelled in a host of ways, but the two standard spellings are “Hanukkah” (most common) and “Chanukah” (for those who want to remind people that the word begins with a gutt...

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hardly

When Bill says “I can’t hardly bend over with this backache,” he meanshe can hardly bend over, and that’s what he should say. Similarly, whenJane says “you can feed the cat without hardly bending o...

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hardy vs hearty

These two words overlap somewhat, but usually the word you want is"hearty.” The standard expressions are “a hearty appetite,” “a heartymeal,” a “hearty handshake,” “a hearty welcome,” and “hearty a...

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he don’t vs he doesn’t

In formal English, “don’t” is not used in the third person singular. “I don’t like avocado ice cream” is correct, and so is “they don’t have their passports yet “ and “they don’t have the sense to ...

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heading vs bound

If you’re reporting on traffic conditions, it’s redundant to say"heading northbound on I-5.” it’s either “heading north” or"northbound.”

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heal vs heel

<p>Heal means to revive or cure a wounded person or being through the provision of quality healthcare and responsive emergency unit.</p><pre>"It takes a strong heart to heal from such disaster."</p...

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hear vs here

If you find yourself writing sentences like “I know I left my wallet hear!” you should note that “hear” has the word “ear” buried in it and let that remind you that it refers only to hearing and is...

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hark vs hearken

One old use of the word “hark” was in hunting with hounds, meaning to turn the dogs back on their course, reverse direction. It was this use that gave rise to the expression “hark back.” It refers ...

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heavily vs strongly

“Heavily” is not an all-purpose synonym for “strongly.” It should be reserved for expressions in which literal or metaphorical weight or density is implied, like “heavily underlined,” “heavily infl...

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heighth vs height

“Width” has a TH at the end, so why doesn’t “height”? In fact it used to, but the standard pronunciation today ends in a plain “T” sound. People who use the obsolete form misspell it as well, so pr...

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help the problem vs help solve the problem

People say they want to help the problem of poverty when what they really mean is that they want to help solve the problem of poverty. Poverty flourishes without any extra help, thank you. I guess ...

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hence why vs hence

Shakespeare and the Bible keep alive one meaning of the old word “hence”: “away from here” (“get thee hence”). There’s no need to add “from” to the word, though you often see “from hence” in preten...

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herbs vs spices

People not seriously into cooking often mix up herbs and spices. Generally, flavorings made up of stems, leaves, and flowers are herbs; and those made of bark, roots, and seeds and dried buds are s...

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here’s vs here are

Sentences like “here’s the gerbil” are shortened ways of saying “here is the gerbil.” But “here’s the gerbils” is wrong because “here’s” is not a contraction of “here are.” In speaking we might say...

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hero vs protagonist

In ordinary usage “hero” has two meanings: “leading character in astory” and “brave, admirable person.” In simple tales the two meaningsmay work together, but in modern literature and film the lead...

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heroin vs heroine

Heroin is a highly addictive opium derivative; the main female character in anarrative is a heroine.

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his and her’s vs his and hers

Possessive pronouns don’t take apostrophes. It’s not “hi’s” (but you knew that), and it’s not “her’s,” even in the popular phrase “his and hers.”

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hew and cry vs hue and cry

<p>If you were to accidentally whack your leg with a hatchet you might be said to hew it, and you would certainly be justified in crying. </p><p>But in the expression “hue and cry” “hue” means “sho...

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him, her vs he, she

There is a group of personal pronouns to be used as subjects in a sentence, including “he,” “she,” “I,” and “we.” Then there is a separate group of object pronouns, including “him,” “her,” “me,” an...

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hindi vs hindu

Hindi is a language. Hinduism is a religion, and its believers are called “Hindus.” Not all Hindus speak Hindi, and many Hindi-speakers are not Hindus.

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hippie vs hippy

A long-haired 60s flower child was a “hippie.” “Hippy” is an adjective describing someone with wide hips. The IE is not caused by a Y changing to IE in the plural as in “puppy” and “puppies.” It is...

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hisself vs himself

<p>Himself is a reflexive pronoun that has the male object of a verb or prepositions that also appears as a subject.</p><p>"He did the job himself."</p><p>Hisself is an inappropriate word in Englis...

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historic vs historical

The meaning of “historic” has been narrowed down to “famous in history.” One should not call a building, site, district, or event “historical.” Sites may be of historical interest if historians are...

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hiv virus

“HIV” stands for “human immunodeficiency virus,” so adding the word “virus” to the acronym creates a redundancy. “HIV” is the name of the organism that is the cause of AIDS, not a name for the dise...

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hoard vs horde

A greedily hoarded treasure is a hoard. A herd of wildebeests or a mobof people is a horde.

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hock vs hawk

<p>Hock has the colloquial interpretation of leaving an item of worth with a pawnbroker as security for a loan or funds.</p><pre>"I hope you won't eventually give up your daughter as hock for anoth...

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hoi polloi

Hoi polloi is Greek for “the common people,” but it is often misused tomean “the upper class” (does “hoi” make speakers think of “high” or"hoity-toity"?). Some urge that since “hoi” is the article ...

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hold your peace vs say your piece

Some folks imagine that since these expressions are opposites, the last word in each should be the same; but in fact they are unrelated expressions. The first means “maintain your silence,” and the...

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hole vs whole

<p>Hole refers to an opening in a solid or an hollow spot on a surface. In some cases, it could also mean a pit or trench.</p><pre>"Rats bored a hole into Richard's desk."</pre><p>Whole means an en...

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holocaust

“Holocaust” is a Greek-derived translation of the Hebrew term olah,which denotes a sort of ritual sacrifice in which the food offered iscompletely burnt up rather than being merely dedicated to God...

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home page

On the World Wide Web, a “home page” is normally the first page a person entering a site encounters, often functioning as a sort of table of contents for the other pages. People sometimes create sp...

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homophobic

Some object to this word—arguing that it literally means“man-fearing,” but the “homo” in “homosexual” and in this word does not refer to the Latin word for “man,” but is derived from a Greek root m...

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hone in vs home in

You home in on a target (the center of the target is “home”). “Honing"has to do with sharpening knives, not aim.

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hors d’oeuvres

If you knew only a little French, you might interpret this phrase as meaning “out of work,” but in fact it means little snack foods served before or outside of (hors) the main dishes of a meal (the...

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how to vs how can i

You can ask someone how to publish a novel; but when you do, don’t write “How to publish a novel?” Instead ask “How can I publish a novel?” or “How does someone publish a novel?” If you’re in luck,...

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humanism vs humanist

People today often use “humanist” to refer to non-religious attitudes or even to atheism; but scholars know that the term originated to describe Renaissance writers who were often Catholic, rarely ...

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humanity

When in 1937 radio reporter Herb Morrison saw the airship Hindenberg bust into flames, blurted “Oh, the humanity!” meaning something like “what terrible human suffering!” Writers who use this phras...

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humus vs hummus

The rotted plant matter you spread on your garden to enrich it is humus.The chickpea spread you dip your pita into is hummus (or hoummos). Turks call it humus, but that spelling of the word is bett...

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hyperdermic vs hypodermic

Do you get a little hyper when you have to go to the doctor for a shot? The injection is made with a hypodermic needle. The prefix hypo- means “under,” and the needle slides under your skin (your e...

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hyphenation

The Chicago Manual of Style contains a huge chart listing various sortsof phrases that are or are not to be hyphenated. Consult such areference source for a thorough-going account of this matter, b...

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hyphens & dashes

Dashes are longer than hyphens, but since older browsers do not reliablyinterpret the code for dashes, they are usually rendered on the Web asthey were on old-fashioned typewriters, as double hyphe...

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hypocritical

“Hypocritical” has a narrow, very specific meaning. It describes behavior or speech that is intended to make one look better or more pious than one really is. It is often wrongly used to label peop...

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hysterical vs hilarious

People say of a bit of humor or a comical situation that it was“hysterical”—shorthand for “hysterically funny”—meaning “hilarious.”But when you speak of a man being “hysterical” it means he is havi...

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highly looked upon vs highly regarded

Many people, struggling to remember the phrase “highly regarded,” come up with the awkward “highly looked upon” instead; which suggests that the looker is placed in a high position, looking down, w...

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hundreds vs century

“Eighteen hundreds,” “sixteen hundreds” and so forth are notexactly errors; the problem is that they are used almostexclusively by people who are nervous about saying“nineteenth century” when, afte...

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