Common Errors Starting with M

more importantly vs more important

When speakers are trying to impress audiences with their rhetoric, theyoften seem to feel that the extra syllable in “importantly”lends weight to their remarks: “and more importantly, I have anabid...

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mac vs mac

Apple’s Macintosh computers are usually referred to as “Macs” for short. Windows users unfamiliar with the usual way of rendering the name often write it as if it were an acronym, in all caps: “MAC...

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macabre

“Macabre” is a French-derived word which in its original language has the final “ruh” sound lightly pronounced. Those who know this are likely to scorn those who pronounce the word “muh-COB.” But t...

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maddening crowd vs madding crowd

When Thomas Hardy titled one of his novels Far from the Madding Crowd he was quoting a phrase from Thomas Gray’s 1750 poem “Elegy on a Country Churchyard” which used the archaic spelling “madding.”...

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magic bullet vs silver bullet

In modern English there are a number of specialized uses for the phrase “magic bullet”; but the traditional term for a quick, effective solution to a difficult problem is “silver bullet.” It is der...

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majority are vs majority is

“Majority” is one of those words that can be either singular or plural. Common sense works pretty well in deciding which. If you mean the word to describe a collection of individuals, then the word...

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majorly vs extremely

“Majorly,” meaning “extremely” is slang and should not be used in formal writing, or even speech if you want to impress someone. “Brad was extremely [not ‘majorly’] worried about the course final u...

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mantle vs mantel

Though they stem from the same word, a “mantle” today is usually acloak, while the shelf over a fireplace is most often spelled “mantel.”

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manufacture vs manufacturer

<p>Manufacture is a verb which means ‘to make or produce something’.</p><pre> “In a factory in our city, they manufacture washing machines.” </pre><p>The manufacturer is the person or company that ...

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marital vs martial

“Marital” refers to marriage, “martial” to war, whose ancient god wasMars. These two are often swapped, with comical results.

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marshall vs marshal

<p>Marshal is commonly used as an official/military title for someone who performs close duties to a sheriff.</p><pre>"His dad is an Air Marshal in the military."</pre><p>Marshall has been mostly r...

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marshmellow vs marshmallow

Your s’mores may taste mellow, but that gooey confection you use in them is not “marshmellow,” but “marshmallow.” It was originally made from the root of a mallow plant which grew in marshes.

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mass vs massive

<p>Massive is used to refer to something which is very large in size.</p><pre>"The oak door is massive."</pre><p>Mass is the property of a body that causes it to have weight in a gravitational fiel...

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masseuse vs masseur

“Masseuse” is a strictly female term; Monsieur Philippe, who gives backrubs down at the men’s gym, is a masseur. Because of the unsavoryassociations that have gathered around the term “masseuse,” s...

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material vs materiel

<p>Material is a matter which maybe shaped or manipulated particularly in making something. It could be also referred to as worldly as opposed to the spiritual.</p><pre>"The dress' material is made...

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mauve

“Mauve” (a kind of purple) is pronounced to rhyme with “grove,” not “mawv.”

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may vs might

Most of the time “might” and “may” are almost interchangeable, with “might” suggesting a somewhat lower probability. You’re more likely to get wet if the forecaster says it may rain than if she say...

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maybe vs may be

“Maybe” is an adverb meaning “perhaps,” so if you are uncertain whether to use this word or the phrase “may be,” try substituting “perhaps”: “Maybe she forgot I said I’d meet her at six o’clock” be...

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mean vs median

To find the mean (or average) of a series of numbers, for example 1,2,3,4,5 & 6, add them all together for a total of 21; then divide by the number of numbers (6) to give the mean (or average) of 3...

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mean for vs mean

“I didn’t mean for you to see your present until I’d wrapped it.” This sort of use of “mean for” is a casual pattern inappropriate in written or formal English. Instead, say “I didn’t mean you to s...

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meantime vs meanwhile

Although most authorities now consider these words interchangeable, some people still prefer to use “meanwhile” when it stands alone at the beginning of a sentence: “Meanwhile the dog buried the ba...

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medal vs metal vs meddle vs mettle

A person who proves his or her mettle displays courage or stamina. Theword “mettle” is seldom used outside of this expression, so peopleconstantly confuse it with other similar-sounding words.

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media vs medium

There are several words with Latin or Greek roots whose plural forms ending in A are constantly mistaken for singular ones. See, for instance, and . Radio is a broadcast medium. Television is anoth...

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medieval ages vs middle ages

The “eval” of “Medieval” means “age” so by saying “Medieval Ages” you are saying “Middle Ages Ages.” Medievalists also greatly resent the common misspelling “Midevil.”

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mediocre

Although some dictionaries accept the meaning of this word as “medium” or “average,” in fact its connotations are almost always more negative. When something is distinctly not as good as it could b...

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medium vs median

<p>Medium is a format for communicating or presenting information. It can also be described as the means or channel by which an aim is achieved.</p><pre>"To boost sales, have you tried the Internet...

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me either vs me neither

Inside a longer sentence, “me either” can be perfectly legitimate: “whole-wheat pie crust doesn’t appeal to me either.” But by itself, meaning “neither do I,” in reply to previous negative statemen...

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meet up vs meet

“Meet up with” and similar expressions (as in “let’s meet up with them at the diner”) is casual and slangy. In standard English, omit the “up.”

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meteor vs meteorite vs meteoroid

A chunk of rock out in space is a “meteoroid.” If it plummets down through the earth’s atmosphere, the resulting streak of light is called a “meteor.” And if it lands on the ground, the chunk of st...

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methodology vs method

A fondness for big words isn’t always accompanied by the knowledge of their proper use. Methodology is about the methods of doing something; it is not the methods themselves. It is both pretentious...

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mfr. vs mfg.

“Mfr.” is the abbreviation for “manufacturer” and “mfg.” is the abbreviation for “manufacturing.” Acme Mfg. Co. is a mfr. of roadrunner traps.

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mic vs mike

Until very recently the casual term for a microphone was “mike,” not “mic.” Young people now mostly imitate the technicians who prefer the shorter “mic” label on their soundboards, but it looks dis...

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midrift vs midriff

“Midriff” derives from “mid-” and a very old word for the belly. Fashions which bare the belly expose the midriff. People think of the gap being created by scanty tops and bottoms as a rift, and mi...

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might could vs might, could

In some American dialects it is common to say things like “I might could pick up some pizza on the way to the party.” In standard English, “might” or “could” are used by themselves, not together.“H...

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might ought vs might, ought

In some dialects it’s common to say things like “you might ought to [pronounced oughta] turn off the engine before changing the spark plugs.” If you want to sound educated, you might want to avoid ...

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militate vs mitigate

These are not very common words, but people who use them—especially lawyers—tend to mix them up. “Militate” is usually followed by “against” in a phrase that means “works against”: “His enthusiasm ...

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mind of information vs mine of information

A book, a person, or any other source stuffed with gems of useful knowledge is a mine of information, a metaphorical treasure trove of learning. The information involved may or may not be in someon...

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miner vs minor

Children are minors, but unless they are violating child-labor laws, those who work in mines are miners.

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minority

In the US the term “minority” frequently refers to racial minorities, and is used not only for groups, but also for individuals. But many authorities object to calling a single person a minority, a...

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minus vs hyphen

When baffled computer users phone Support they may say they have a Model AB “minus” 231. In the model name “AB-231” the linking character is a hyphen, though “dash” will do. “Minus” makes no sense ...

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minus well vs might as well

<p>Might as well is a popular phrase in English used to suggest the intention to perform an action.</p><pre>"I might as well just sleep after reading this chapter."</pre><p>Minus Well is an incorre...

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mischievious vs mischievous

The correct pronunciation of this word is “MISS-chuh-vuss,” not “miss-CHEE-vee-uss.” Don’t let that mischievous extra I sneak into the word.

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mislead vs misled

<p>Mislead means to lead someone astray or in a false direction through deception and other funny tricks.</p><pre>"Joshua attempted to mislead his girlfriend by sending her on a fool's hunt."</pre>...

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misnomer

A misnomer is a mistake in naming a thing; calling a debit card a “credit card” is a misnomer. Do not use the term more generally to designate other sorts of confusion, misunderstood concepts, or f...

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misplaced stress

“We will be descending shortly into Denver,”says the flight attendant, sounding very weird. People who have torepeat announcements by rote—including radio station-breakannouncers and others—often t...

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mixed-up media

Mixed media can be great; mixed-up media not so much.Books are published, movies and musical recordings released, and plays and TV shows premiered.Movies are shown, plays staged, and TV shows broad...

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molten vs melted

“Molten” is now usually used of hard materials liquified by very high heat, like lava, glass, and lead. Most other substances are “melted,” though some people like to refer to “molten cheese” and a...

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mongoloid

“Mongoloid” is an outdated anthropological term referring to certain peoples from central and eastern Asia. Its use to label people with Down Syndrome is also dated and highly offensive. Avoid the ...

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mono e mono vs mano a mano

“Mono e mono” is an error caused by mishearing the Spanish expression mano a mano which means not “man-to-man” but “hand-to-hand,” as in hand-to-hand combat: one on one.

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moral vs morale

If you are trying to make people behave properly, you are policing their morals; if you are just trying to keep their spirits up, you are trying to maintain their morale. “Moral” is accented on the...

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morays vs mores

The customs of a people are its mores. These may include its morals (ethics), but the word “mores” is not synonymous with “morals.” Some eels are morays, but they aren’t known particularly for thei...

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moreso vs more so

“More so” should always be spelled as two distinct words. It is also overused and misused. Wherever possible, stick with plain “more.”

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most always vs almost always

“Most always” is a casual, slangy way of saying “almost always.” Thelatter expression is better in writing. The same is true of “most every,” “most all” and related expressions where the standard f...

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motherload vs mother lode

Although you may dig a load of ore out of a mother lode, the spelling “motherload” is a mistake which is probably influenced by people thinking it means something like “the mother of all loads.” A ...

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motion vs move

<p>Motion refers to a change in position with consideration to time. It also means the progression from one location to the other.</p><pre>"Do not run in front of a vehicle in motion."</pre><p>Move...

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mount fujiyama vs fujiyama

“Yama” means “mountain” in Japanese, so when you say “Mount Fujiyama” you are saying “Mount Fuji Mountain.” The Japanese usually say “Fujisan”; but “Fujiyama,” or “Mount Fuji” is standard in Englis...

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muchly vs much

Drop the nonstandard “-ly” ending from “much,” or substitute the word“very” when appropriate.

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mucus vs mucous

Mucous membranes secrete mucus. “Mucus” is the noun and “mucous” is the adjective. It’s not only snotty biologists who insist on distinguishing between these two words.

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multipart names

In many European languages family names are often preceded by a preposition (de, da, di, von, and van all mean “of”), an article (le and la mean “the”) or both (du, des, del, de la, della and van d...

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music vs singing

After my wife—an accomplished soprano—reported indignantly that a friend of hers had stated that her church had “no music, only singing,” I began to notice the same tendency among my students to eq...

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mute point vs moot point

“Moot” is a very old word related to “meeting,” specifically a meeting where serious matters are discussed. Oddly enough, a moot point can be a point worth discussing at a meeting (or in court)—an ...

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myriad of vs myriad

Some traditionalists object to the word “of” after “myriad” or an “a” before, though both are fairly common in formal writing. The word is originally Greek, meaning 10,000, but nowusually means “a ...

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money is no option vs money is no object

<p>Money is no object is an expression used to mean that money will not be an obstacle to achieving a goal.</p><pre>"Regarding the upcoming acquisition, you can reassure the new partners that money...

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