Common Errors Starting with O

o vs zero

When reciting a string of numbers such as your credit card number it is common and perfectly acceptable to pronounce zero as “oh.” But when dealing with a registration code or other such string of ...

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object d’art vs objet d’art

The French-derived word for an object of artistic value or a curio is objet d’art pronounced “oh-ZHAY darr,” (the B is silent). It is often anglicized mistakenly to object d’art. You will also see ...

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obsolescent vs obsolete

Many people assume the word “obsolescent” must be a fancy form of “obsolete,” but something obsolescent is technically something in the process of becoming obsolete. Therefore it’s an error to desc...

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odd

Expressions like “twenty-odd years,” “a dozen-odd people,” and “two hundred-odd mistakes” are usually written with a hyphen before the “odd” to indicate that the exact number is unknown—perhaps a b...

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of

“Of” is often shoved in where it doesn’t belong in phrases like “notthat big of a deal,” and “not that great of a writer.” Just leave itout.

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offense vs offence

No offense meant, but if I spell offense as offence, I would still be right, for offence is only a variant of offense.

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offline

When your computer is connected to the Internet, you are online. When you disconnect from the Internet, you are offline.People who don’t understand this often say of things they get from the Intern...

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of ___’s

Phrases combining “of” with a noun followed by “S” may seem redundant,since both indicate possession; nevertheless, “a friend of Karen’s” isstandard English, just as “a friend of Karen” and “Karen’...

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oft chance vs off chance

If something is off chance, it is very unlikely to happen. "Oft" is an informal abbreviation for "often". The expression "oft chance" is incorrect. "Off chance" is correct.

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often

People striving for sophistication often pronounce the T in this word, but true sophisticates know that the masses are correct in saying “offen.”

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oggle vs ogle

<p>Ogle means to stare at someone or something covetously and flirtatiously.</p><pre>"I saw a man on the train that ogled at me all day!"</pre><p>Oggle is the inappropriate spelling of the word, og...

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ok

This may be the most universal word in existence; it seems to havespread to most of the world’s languages. Etymologists now generally agree that it began as a humorous misspelling of “all correct":...

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old english

Many people refer to any older form of English as “Old English,” but this is properly a technical term for Anglo-Saxon, the original language in which Beowulf was written. Norman French combined wi...

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old wise tale vs old wives’ tale

An absurd superstition is an “old wives’ tale”: according to sexist tradition a story popular among credulous old ladies. It’s not an “old wise tale” or—even worse—an “old wives’ tail.”

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one-dimensional vs two-dimensional

Once upon a time most folks knew that “three-dimensional” characters orideas were rounded, fleshed out, and complex and “two-dimensional” oneswere flat and uninteresting. It seems that the knowledg...

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one in the same vs one and the same

The old expression “they are one and the same” is now often mangled into the roughly phonetic equivalent “one in the same.” The use of “one” here to mean “identical with each other” is familiar fro...

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one of the (singular)

In phrases like “pistachio is one of the few flavors that appeals tome,” I think you should use the singular form for the verb “appeals” because its subject is“one,” not “flavors.” However, note th...

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once vs ones

<p>Once is a measurement of frequency that has someone or something happen the one and only time or someone does an action the one and only time.</p><pre>"John told his colleagues that he had only ...

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online vs on line vs in line

The common adjective used to label Internet activities is usually written as one word: “online”: “The online site selling banana cream pies was a failure.” But it makes more sense when using it as ...

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one of the only vs one of the few

<p>One of the only signifies that only one of the available one item or person is needed. The total number has always been one and just that is up for use.</p><pre>"I need to mend one of the only p...

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only

Writers often inadvertently create confusion by placing “only” incorrectly in a sentence. It should go immediately before the word or phrase it modifies. “I lost my only shirt” means that I had but...

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onto vs on to

“Onto” and “on to” are often interchangeable, but not always. Considerthe effect created by wrongly using “onto” in the following sentencewhen “on to” is meant: “We’re having hors d’oeuvres in the ...

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on tomorrow vs tomorrow

You can meet on Monday or on the 21st of March, but it’s an error to say “on tomorrow,” “on yesterday” or “on today” Just leave “on” out(except, of course, in phrases like “let’s meet later on toda...

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op-ed

Although it looks like it might mean “opinion of the editor” the “op-ed” page is actually a page written by columnists or outside contributors to a newspaper, printed opposite the editorial page.

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open vs unlocked vs unlatched

Many people refer to doors as being “open” when they mean to say they are merely unlocked. Telling people to leave a house open may mislead them into making the place more inviting to casual intrud...

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opportunist

When applied to people, the label “opportunist” usually has negative connotations. It implies that the people so labeled take unprincipled, unfair advantage of opportunities for selfish ends. Oppor...

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oppress vs repress

Dictators commonly oppress their citizens and repress dissent, butthese words don’t mean exactly the same thing. “Repress” just means"keep under control.” sometimes repression is a good thing: “Dur...

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oral vs verbal

Some people insist that “verbal” refers to anything expressed in words, whether written or spoken, while “oral” refers exclusively to speech; but in common usage “verbal” has become widely accepted...

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orders of magnitude

Many pretentious writers have begun to use the expression “orders of magnitude” without understanding what it means. The concept derives from the scientific notation of very large numbers in which ...

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oregon

Oregon natives and other Westerners pronounce the state name’s last syllable to sound like “gun,” not “gone.”

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organic

The word “organic” is used in all sorts of contexts, often in a highlymetaphorical manner; the subject here is its use in the phrase “organicfoods” in claims of superior healthfulness. Various juri...

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oriental vs asian

“Oriental” is generally considered old-fashioned now, and many find itoffensive. “Asian” is preferred, but not “Asiatic.” It’s better to writethe nationality involved, for example “Chinese” or “Ind...

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orientate vs orient

Although it is standard in British English “orientate” is widely considered an error in the US, with simple “orient” being preferred.The same pattern applies to “disorientate” vs. “disorient.” See ...

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ostensively vs ostensibly

<p>Ostensibly is an adverb that means ‘apparently, but not really’. </p><pre>”John is ostensibly studying for his upcoming exams right now, but actually he’s watching the football match on his lapt...

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ourn vs ours

“Ourn” is dialectical; “ours” is standard English. “Well, shoot!” says Jeb, “That may be the way some folks talk, but it ain’t ourn.”

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outcast vs outcaste

Believe it or not, these two similar words have very different origins. An “outcast” is someone who has been cast (thrown) out of a group, and may be used loosely of all kinds of loners. An “outcas...

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oversee vs overlook

When you oversee the preparation of dinner, you take control and managethe operation closely. But if you overlook the preparation of dinner youforget to prepare the meal entirely—better order pizza.

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overtake vs take over

When you catch up with the runners ahead of you in a marathon, you overtake them; but when you seize power, you take over the government.

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owness vs onus

<p>Onus is a Latin word that means 'burden' but upon translating it to English, it has been known to mean 'responsibility' and/or 'duty' to a specific cause.</p><pre>"The onus is on us to show that...

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on the same token vs by the same token

When we compare things with each other, we often say “on the one hand” and “on the other hand.” These phrases mean “on this side” and “on the other side.” But it is a mistake to say “on the same to...

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