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Faulty Idioms




Accept means “to agree to” or “to receive.” Except means “to object to” or “to leave out.”

We will accept (receive) your manuscript for review.

No parking is allowed, except (leave out) on holidays.



Account for

When explaining something, the correct idiom is account for:

We had to account for all the missing money.

When receiving blame or credit, the correct idiom is account to:

You will have to account to the state for your crimes.



Adapted to/for/from

Adapted to means “naturally suited for.” Adapted for means “created to be suited for.” Adapted from means “changed to be suited for.”

The polar bear is adapted to the subzero temperatures.

For any “New Order” to be successful, it must be adapted for the continually changing world power structure.

Lucas’ latest release is adapted from the 1950 B-movie “Attack of the Amazons.”




Effect is a noun meaning “a result.”

Increased fighting will be the effect of the failed peace conference.

Affect is a verb meaning “to influence.”

The rain affected their plans for a picnic.



All ready vs. Already

All ready means “everything is ready.”

Already means “earlier.”



Alot vs. A lot

Alot is nonstandard; a lot is the correct form.




Between should be used when referring to two things, and among should be used when referring to more than two things.

The young lady must choose between two suitors.

The fault is spread evenly among the three defendants.

Being that vs. Since


Being that is nonstandard and should be replaced by since.


(Faulty) Being that darkness was fast approaching, we had to abandon the search.

(Better) Since darkness was fast approaching, we had to abandon the search.





Adding an sto beside completely changes its meaning: Beside means “next to.” Besides means “in addition.”


We sat beside (next to) the host.

Besides (in addition), money was not even an issue in the contract negotiations.

Center on vs. Center around


Center around is colloquial. It should not be used in formal writing.


(Faulty) The dispute centers around the effects of undocumented workers.

(Correct) The dispute centers on the effects of undocumented workers.



Conform to (not with)


Stewart’s writing does not conform to standard literary conventions.



Consensus of opinion


Consensus of opinion is redundant: consensus means “general agreement.”



Correspond to/with


Correspond to means “in agreement with”:

The penalty does not correspond to the severity of the crime.


Correspond with means “to exchange letters”:

He corresponded with many of the top European leaders of his time.

Different from/Different than


The preferred form is different from. Only in rare cases is different than acceptable.


The new Cadillacs are very different from the imported luxury cars.



Double negatives


(Faulty) Scarcely nothing was learned during the seminar.

(Better) Scarcely anything was learned during the seminar.




Doubt that vs. Doubt whether


Doubt whether is nonstandard.


(Faulty) doubt whether his new business will succeed.

(Correct) doubt that his new business will succeed.



Use farther when referring to distance, and use further when referring to degree.


They went no further (degree) than necking.

He threw the discs farther (distance) than the top seated competitor.





Use fewer when referring to a number of items. Use less when referring to a continuous quantity.


In the past, we had fewer options.

The impact was less than what was expected.

Identical with (not to)


This bid is identical with the one submitted by you.



In contrast to (not of)


In contrast to the conservative attitudes of her time, Mae West was quite provocative.



Independent of (not from)


The judiciary is independent of the other branches of government.

Not only … but also


In this construction, but cannot be replaced with and.


(Faulty) Peterson is not only the top salesman in the department and also the most proficient.

(Correct) Peterson is not only the top salesman in the department but also the most proficient.

On account of vs. Because


Because is always better than the circumlocution on account of.


(Poor) On account of his poor behavior, he was expelled.

(Better) Because he behaved poorly, he was expelled.



One another/Each other


Each other should be used when referring to two things, and one another should be used when referring to more than two things.


The members of the basketball team (more than two) congratulated one another on their victory.


The business partners (two) congratulated each other on their successful first year.

Plus vs. And


Do not use plus as a conjunction meaning and.


(Faulty) His contributions to this community are considerable, plushis character is beyond reproach.

(Correct) His contributions to this community are considerable, and his character is beyond reproach.


Note: Plus can be used to mean and so long as it is not being used as a conjunction.


(Acceptable) His generous financial contribution plus his donated time has made this project a success.


In this sentence, plus is being used as a preposition. Note that the verb has is singular because an intervening prepositional phrase ( plus his donated time) does not affect subject verb agreement.

Regard vs. Regards


Unless you are giving best wishes to someone, you should use regard.


(Faulty) In regards to your letter, we would be interested in distributing your product.

(Correct) In regard to your letter, we would be interested in distributing your product.



Regardless vs. Irregardless


Regardless means “not withstanding.” Hence, the “ir” in irregardless is redundant. Regardless is the correct form.



Retroactive to (not from)


The correct idiom is retroactive to:

The tax increase is retroactive to February.

Speak to/with


To speak to someone is to tell them something:

We spoke to Jennings about the alleged embezzlement.


To speak with someone is to discuss something with them:

Steve spoke with his friend Dave for hours yesterday.

The reason is because


This structure is redundant. Equally common and doubly redundant is the structure the reason why is because.


(Poor) The reason why I could not attend the party is because I had to work.

(Better) I could not attend the party because I had to work.

Whether vs. As to whether


The circumlocution as to whether should be replaced by whether.


(Poor) The United Nations has not decided as to whether to authorize a trade embargo.

(Better) The United Nations has not decided whether to authorize a trade embargo.



Whether vs. If


Whether introduces a choice; if introduces a condition. A common mistake is to use if to present a choice.


(Faulty) He inquired if we had decided to keep the gift.

(Correct) He inquired whether we had decided to keep the gift.

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