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Some commonly confused words

We can all use the wrong word at the wrong time, no matter how well we think we know our language. Here are a few that might catch you out:

less/fewer – the general rule is that less applies to quantity and fewer to number. A perhaps more helpful, but less precise, guide is to use less with singular nouns (‘we should all be eating less salt’) and fewer with plural nouns (‘there were fewer people here than last time’).

stationary/stationery – sometimes confused because of their identical pronunciation but they have very different meanings. Stationery is a noun and refers to pens, pencils, paper, etc. Stationary is an adjective, and means not moving.

use/utilise – one of my pet hates! Utilise has a specific meaning of putting to use whatever you can find – it is not a synonym for use. Utilise is often wrongly used because it sounds more ‘weighty’.

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