Common Mistakes

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Quote/Quotation/Quotation Mark

Quote is a verb. It means “to repeat the words of a writer or speaker.” Quotation is a noun. It means “words quoted” or “the act of quoting.” Quotation marks are punctuation marks used to highlight a written quotation. Correct: He quoted Shakespeare frequently. Incorrect: We listened to a long quote from the government report.

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For Free

Free is an adjective. The expression for free is nonstandard. Use free or something like for nothing instead. Incorrect: We got it for free. Correct: We got it free. Correct: We got it for nothing.

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Imply/Infer

Imply means “to state indirectly.” Infer means “to draw a conclusion.” You may infer something from an implication, but you would not imply something from an inference. Incorrect: She implied that he was from Canada by his accent. Correct: She inferred that he was from Canada by his accent. Incorrect: The poem inferred that the

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Less/Fewer

Use fewer with objects that can be counted one-by-one. Use less with qualities or quantities that cannot be individually counted. Incorrect: There were less days below freezing last winter. Correct: There were fewer days below freezing last winter. (Days can be counted.) Correct: I drank less water than she did. (Water cannot be counted individually

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Fortunate/Fortuitous

Fortuitous means “happening by chance.” Fortunate means “lucky” or “beneficial.” Examples: Finding the lost coin was strictly fortuitous; I just stumbled upon it. I was fortunate to find that coin because I needed the money.

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