After completing your research, writing can seem a daunting task. You may encounter several opportunities to share your research, and the English language can be very confusing since there are irregular words and phrases, and some words may seem as though they can be used interchangeably. However, the words discussed below have different meanings and should not be used in place of one another. This is a quick guide that will help you make the best word choice so you can showcase your work without these types of errors.
- “Whether” or “if”
“If” is used when you are discussing an event that may or may not take place, and “whether” should be used to indicate one of two outcomes.
If is also used in “if–then” statements and should be paired together, with “then” following “if.”
If it snows next week, then the meeting will be postponed.
The results were the same whether we used the first set of instructions or the second set.
- “Who” or “that”
“Who” should be used when you are referring to an individual, while “that” should be used when you are referring to an object.
My colleague, who recently adopted an iguana, also has a dog that likes to chase its tail.
- “And” or “Or”
You should use “and” when you are indicating that the statement applies to every individual or item in that portion of your statement, while “or” should be used to indicate that the statement only applies to some.
Mary, Jean, and John went to the conference. Here, the use of “and” lets the reader know that all three individuals went to the event.
Mary, Jean, or John went to the conference. Here, we know someone went to the event, but we do not know if one, two, or three people went.
- “Proceed” or “Precede”
Precede means to take place before another event, while proceed means to continue on or to move forward.
The discussion should precede the conclusion section.
After taking the time to document the steps in their experiment, the researchers proceeded to conduct their research.
- “Further” or “Farther”
Another pair of look-alike words, “further” and “farther” are anything but that. “Further” means in addition to, while “farther” means a physical distance that is measurable.
After receiving yet another rejection, the author was further discouraged.
Discouraged, the author slid the rejection slip farther and farther off the desk until it landed in the garbage pail.
- “E.g.” or “i.e.”
When using e.g. and i.e., you need to remember that they should never be used at the beginning of a sentence, there should be a period after each letter, and they should be followed by a comma.
Both of the terms are Latin: i.e. means “id est,” which translates to “in other words” or “that is,” while e.g. means “exempli gratia,” which translates to “for example.” It is easy to see how a writer might be confused and inadvertently use the incorrect one.
The experiments were conducted over the course of several months, i.e., three to four months.
Many types of trees can be observed in the forest, e.g., maple, birch, and pine.
- “It’s,” “its’,” or “its”
Many people toss around a form of this word without a care as to whether there is an apostrophe or not; however, an apostrophe makes a big difference in this case. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is,” but it is also informally used as the contraction for “it has.” Very simply put, contractions should not be used in formal papers; therefore, if you see “it’s,” please spell it out.
“Its” is the possessive form of the word, as was used in the sentence about the dog that chased its tail above. An apostrophe is not added to “its” in this use.
Finally, there is no such word as “its’.” If you see this form, you will know that it needs to either be spelled out to mean “it is” or look at the sentence to see if you mean the possessive form (no apostrophe).