Common Errors Starting with L

l vs 1

People who learned to type in the pre-computer era sometimes type a lower-case letter “l” when they need a number “1.” Depending on the font being used, these may look interchangeable, but there ar...

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l vs ll

There are quite a few words spelled with a double L in UK English which are spelled in the US with a single L. Examples include “woollen” (US “woolen”), “counsellor” (US “counselor”), “medallist” (...

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laissez-faire

The mispronunciation “lazy-fare” is almost irresistible in English, but this is a French expression meaning “let it be” or, more precisely, “the economic doctrine of avoiding state regulation of th...

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land lover vs landlubber

“Lubber” is an old term for a clumsy person, and beginning in the 18th century sailors used it to describe a person who was not a good seaman. So the pirate expression of scorn for those who don’t ...

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languish vs luxuriate

To languish is to wilt, pine away, become feeble. It always indicates an undesirable state. If you’re looking for a nice long soak in the tub, what you want is not to languish in the bath but to lu...

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large vs important

In colloquial speech it’s perfectly normal to refer to something as a “big problem,” but when people create analogous expressions in writing, the result is awkward. Don’t write “this is a large iss...

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late vs former

If you want to refer to your former husband, don’t call him your “latehusband” unless he’s dead.

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later vs latter

Except in the expression “latter-day” (modern), the word “latter”usually refers back to the last-mentioned of a set of alternatives. “Wegave the kids a choice of a vacation in Paris, Rome, or Disne...

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laundry mat vs laundromat

“Laundromat” was coined in the 1950s by analogy with “automat”—an automated self-service restaurant— to label an automated self-service laundry. People unaware of this history often mistakenly deco...

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laxadaisical vs lackadaisical

<p>Lackadaisical refers to when someone shows no interest or lacks enthusiasm in performing a task or doing something.</p><pre>"Josh is lackadaisical to washing the plates and doing his chores."</p...

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lay vs lie

You lay down the book you’ve been reading, but you lie down when you go to bed. In the present tense, if the subject is acting on some other object, it’s “lay.” If the subject is lying down, then i...

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layed vs laid

<p>Laid is the correct past tense for 'lay' which often means to place something against the ground or a surface in a position of rest.</p> <pre>"<i>You wouldn't believe John laid the books on the...

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lcd display vs lcd

“LCD” stands for “liquid crystal display,” so some argue it is redundant to write “LCD display” and argue you should use just “LCD” or “LCD screen” instead. But some in the industry argue that “LCD...

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leach vs leech

Water leaches chemicals out of soil or color out of cloth, yourbrother-in-law leeches off the family by constantly borrowing money topay his gambling debts (he behaves like a bloodsucking leech).

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lead vs led

When you’re hit over the head, the instrument could be a “lead” pipe. But when it’s a verb, “lead” is the present and “led” is the past tense. The problem is that the past tense is pronounced exact...

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least vs lest

American English keeps alive the old word “lest” in phrases like “lest we forget,” referring to something to be avoided or prevented. Many people mistakenly substitute the more familiar word “least...

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leave vs let

The colloquial use of “leave” to mean “let” in phrases like “leave mebe” is not standard. “Leave me alone” is fine, though.

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legend vs myth

Myths are generally considered to be traditional stories whose importancelies in their significance, like the myth of the Fall in Eden; whereaslegends can be merely famous deeds, like the legend of...

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lense vs lens

<p>Lens is a curved piece of glass for magnifying or viewing objects. They are important parts of cameras, microscopes, binoculars etc.</p> <pre>"It took Fred more than an hour to find his contact...

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lessen vs lesson

Although not many people try to teach someone a “lessen,” many people try to “lesson” their risks by taking precautions. “Lessen” is something you do—a verb—and means to make smaller. “Lesson” is a...

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let alone

“I can’t remember the title of the book we were supposed to read, let alone the details of the story.” In sentences like these you give a lesser example of something first, followed by “let alone” ...

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let’s vs lets

<p>Lets is the third-person singular form of the verb “Let” and it means to give permission to someone or something.</p><pre>"He lets everyone out by five in the evening."</pre><p>Let’s on the othe...

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liable vs libel

If you are likely to do something you are liable to do it; and if a debt can legitimately be charged to you, you are liable for it. A person who defames you with a false accusation libels you. Ther...

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liaise

The verb “liaise,” meaning to act as a liaison (intermediary between one group and another), has been around in military contexts since early in the 20th century; but recently it has broken out int...

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libary vs library

<p>A Library is an institution that holds books and other form of stored information for use by the public. It is usual for it to be housed in rooms of a building where items of the collection are ...

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lightening vs lightning

Those bright flashes in the storm clouds indeed used to be referred to as “lightening,” later as “light’ning,” but now they are simply “lightning.”“Lightening” has a quite different meaning in mode...

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light-year

“Light-year” is always a measure of distance rather than of time; in fact it is the distance that light travels in a year. “Parsec” is also a measure of distance, equaling 3.26 light-years, though ...

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like

Since the 1950s, when it was especially associated with hipsters, “like” as a sort of meaningless verbal hiccup has been common in speech. The earliest uses had a sort of sense to them in which “li...

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like for vs like

I would like you to remember that saying “I’d like for you to take outthe garbage” is not formal English. The “for” is unnecessary.

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likker vs liquor

Although it may be pronounced “likker,” you shouldn’t spell it that way,and it’s important to remember to include the “U” when writing the word.

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listserv

“LISTSERV” is the brand name of one kind of electronic mail-handling software for distributing messages to a list of subscribers. Other common brand names are “Majordomo” and “Listproc”. You can su...

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“lite” spelling

Attempts to “reform” English spelling to render it more phonetic have mostly been doomed to failure—luckily for us. These proposed changes, if widely adopted, would make old books difficult to read...

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literally

Like “” “literally” has been so overused as a sort of vague intensifier that it is in danger of losing its literal meaning. It should be used to distinguish between a figurative and a literal meani...

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literature

Businesspeople like to refer to advertising brochures and instructional manuals as “literature.” This drives writers and literary scholars nuts, but who else cares? If you should happen to be tryin...

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little own vs let alone

When Tom writes “I don’t even understand what you’re saying, little own agree with it” he is misunderstanding the standard phrase “let alone.” In the same context many people would say “never mind.”

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little to none vs little or none

The expression “little or none” is meant to describe a very narrow distinction, between hardly any and none at all: “The store's tomatoes had little or none of the flavor I get from eating what I g...

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lived

In expressions like “long-lived” pronouncing the last part to rhyme with“dived” is more traditional, but rhyming it with “sieved” is so commonthat it’s now widely acceptable.

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loath vs loathe

“Loath” is a rather formal adjective meaning reluctant and rhymes with “both,” whereas “loathe” is a common verb meaning to dislike intensely, and rhymes with “clothe.” Kenji is loath to go to the ...

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login, log-in, log in

There is a strong tendency in American English to smoosh the halves of hyphenated word and phrases together and drop the hyphen, so we commonly see phrases such as “enter your login and password.” ...

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logon vs visit

You log on to a Web site by entering your ID and password. If you are merely encouraging people to visit a site which has no such requirement, it is misleading to ask them to “log on” to it. News r...

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lol

The common Internet abbreviation “lol” (for “laughing out loud”) began as an expression of amusement or satirical contempt: “My brother-in-law thought the hollandaise sauce was gravy and poured it ...

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loser vs looser

A person who’s a failure is a loser, often a “real loser.” If something is loosened, it becomes looser.

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lose vs loose

This confusion can easily be avoided if you pronounce the word intended aloud. If it has a voiced Z sound, then it’s “lose.” If it has a hissy S sound, then it’s “loose.” Here are examples of corre...

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lot, plenty, load (number)

The expression “a lot” takes a singular verb when it refers to an amount of something that can’t be counted: “a lot of water has gone over the dam.” But it takes a plural verb when it refers to a c...

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lozenger vs lozenge

<p>A Lozenge is a quadrilateral with sides of equal length having two acute and two obtuse angles. </p><pre>"What is the sum of all the angles on a lozenge?"</pre><p>Lozenger is obviously a misspel...

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lustful vs lusty

“Lusty” means “brimming with vigor and good health” or “enthusiastic.” Don’t confuse it with “lustful,” which means “filled with sexual desire.”

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