Common Errors Starting with N

needs -ed vs -ing

In some dialects it is common to say “my shoes need shined” instead ofthe standard “my shoes need shining” or “my shoes need to be shined.”

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n’ vs ’n’

In your restaurant’s ad for “Big ’n’ Juicy Burgers,” remember that the apostrophes substitute for both omitted letters in “and”—the A and the D—so strictly speaking it’s not enough to use just one,...

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name, pronoun

In old English ballads, it is common to follow the name of someone with a pronoun referring to the same person. For instance: “Sweet William, he died the morrow.” The extra syllable “he” helps fill...

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nauseated vs nauseous

Many people say, when sick to their stomachs, that they feel “nauseous” (pronounced “NOSH-uss” or “NOZH-uss”) but traditionalists insist that this word should be used to describe something that mak...

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naval vs navel

Your belly button is your navel, and navel oranges look like they have one; all terms having to do with ships and sailing require “naval.”

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near vs nearly

<p>Near is described as being close to physically and having a small intervening distance with regards to something.</p><pre>"There is a man waiting for you near the fountain."</pre><p>Nearly means...

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neice vs niece

Despite the fact that the rule “I before E except after C” holds true most of the time, many people have trouble believing that words with the “ee” sound in them should be spelled with an “IE.” The...

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nevada

“Nuh-VAH-duh” is a little closer to the original Spanish pronunciationthan the way Nevadans pronounce the name of their home state, but thecorrect middle syllable is the same “A” sound as in “sad.”...

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nevermind vs never mind

<p>Never mind is used to tell someone to disregard or pay no attention something.</p><pre>"Never mind that disrespectful bull."</pre><p>Nevermind on the other hand is used as a part of a colloquial...

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new lease of life vs new lease on life

Reinvigorated people are traditionally said to have been granted not a “new lease of life” but a “new lease on life.” After all, you take out a lease on a house, right? Same thing.

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next vs this

If I tell you that the company picnic is next Saturday it would be wise to ask whether I mean this coming Saturday or the Saturday after that. People differ in how they use “next” in this sort of c...

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next store vs next door

<p>‘Next door’ is used in giving directions or location to mean that one building is adjacent to another. For example, you might say that you live next door to your uncle, or that the post office i...

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nicety vs niceness

“Nicety” is a noun meaning “fine detail” and is usually used in the plural. You may observe the niceties of etiquette or of English grammar. It is not an adjective describing someone who is nice. T...

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nieve vs naive

People who spell this French-derived word “nieve” make themselves look naive. In French there is also a masculine form: “naif”; and both words can be nouns meaning “naive person” as well as adjecti...

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niggard

“Niggard” is a very old word in English meaning “miser” or “stingy person.” Americans often mistakenly assume it is a variant on the most common insulting term for dark-skinned people. You may emba...

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ninty vs ninety

<p>Ninety is a number characterized to be one more than eighty-nine and the result of 9 multiplied by 10. It is presented numerically as 90.</p><pre>"<i>You have approximately ninety seconds to apo...

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noble prize vs nobel prize

Nobel laureates may indeed be intellectual nobility, but the award they get is not the “Noble Prize” but the “Nobel Prize,” named after founder Alfred Nobel.

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none

There’s a lot of disagreement about this one. “None” can be either singular or plural, depending on the meaning you intend and its context in the sentence. “None of the pie is left” is clearly sing...

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nonplussed

“Nonplussed” means to be stuck, often in a puzzling or embarrassing way, unable to go further (“non” = “no” + “plus” = “further” ). It does not mean, as many people seem to think, “calm, in control.”

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no sooner when vs no sooner than

The phrase, “No sooner had Paula stopped petting the cat when it began toyowl” should be instead “No sooner had Paula stopped petting the catthan it began to yowl.”

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no such a thing vs no such thing

Some say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”; but in phrases like this it’s much less common to insert an “a” after “such” so that the phrase becomes “no such a thing.” This variation followed...

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not

You need to put “not” in the right spot in a sentence to make it say what you intend. “Not all fraternity members are drunks” means some are, but “All fraternity members are not drunks” means none ...

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not all

The combination of “not” and ”all” can be confusing if you’re not careful about placement. “All politicians are not corrupt” could theoretically mean that no politician is corrupt; but what you pro...

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not all that vs not very

The slangy phrase “not all that” as in “the dessert was not all thattasty” doesn’t belong in formal writing. “Not very” would work, butsomething more specific would be even better: “the pudding tas...

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notate vs note

<p>If you say "Notate the date for the event", I will note the error in it. Use notate if you are referring to notations like music, ballet, choreography etc. If you are not using a special notatio...

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nothing (singular)

In formal English, “nothing” is always singular, even when it’s followed by a phrase stating an exception which contains a plural noun: “Nothing but weeds grows [not grow] in my yard” and “nothing ...

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notorious

“Notorious” means famous in a bad way, as in “Nero was notorious for giving long recitals of his tedious poetry.” Occasionally writers deliberately use it in a positive sense to suggest irony or wi...

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now and days vs nowadays

<p>Nowadays simply means at the present and current time, period, age or time. These days is usually administered to actions that has become a trend of some sorts in the current allocation of time....

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nuclear

This isn’t a writing problem, but a pronunciation error. PresidentEisenhower used to consistently insert a “U” sound between the first andsecond syllables, leading many journalists to imitate him a...

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numbers

If your writing contains numbers, the general rule is to spell out inletters all the numbers from zero to nine and use numerals for largernumbers; but there are exceptions. If what you’re writing i...

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number of verb

In long, complicated sentences, people often lose track of whether thesubject is singular or plural and use the wrong sort of verb. “Theultimate effect of all of these phone calls to the detectives...

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numerous of vs numerous, numbers of

“Numerous customers returned the garlic-flavored toothpaste.“ “Numbers of customers returned the toothpaste.” “Many of the customers.” Any of these is fine.But “numerous of the customers”? Yuck.

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nuptual vs nuptial

“Nuptial” is usually a pretentious substitute for “wedding,” but ifyou’re going to use it, be sure to spell it properly. For the noun, theplural form “nuptials” is more traditional.

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