Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Did You Know...?

Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?


Today’s topic can trip up even the most learned of the grammar lovers. Here are some troublesome word pairings I’ve collected throughout the years. 

Aggravate, irritate

Strunk and White's The Elements of Style states aggravate means “to add to an already troublesome or vexing matter or condition.”

Irritate is to annoy or chafe.

Allusion, illusion

An allusion is an indirect reference.

An illusion is an unreal image or false impression, according to Strunk and White.

Critical, crucial

According to Webster, crucial is “important or essential as resolving a crisis, decisive.”

Critical means “being at a turning point or specially important juncture” or “relating to an illness or condition involving danger of death.”

They are not synonyms. Critical bumps it up a notch. The something you are describing is of vital importance, possibly a matter of life or death.

Nauseous, nauseated

Strunk and White have a great explanation of the difference between nauseous and nauseated.

“The first means ‘sickening to contemplate’; the second means ‘sick at the stomach.’ Do not, therefore, say ‘I feel nauseous,’ unless you are sure you have that effect on others.”

Premier, premiere

A premier serves as the first minister in a national government that has a council of ministers. Prime minister is a synonym of premier.

Premiere is a first performance, whether it refers to a movie, play or symphony.

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These five books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

Strunk and White's The Elements of Style


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


Anonymous said…
Nauseous and nauseated is a tricky one for me, even though it should be obvious.
I didn't know the rule until my old college professor pointed it out to me when she was looking over Whisper. Now, they are red-flag words for me.

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