Common Mistakes

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Incisive/Decisive

Incisive literally means “cutting into.” Figuratively, it means acute, sharp, or trenchant. The adverb form is incisively; the noun form, incisiveness. Decisive comes from the word decide and means “conclusive, putting an end to debate.” It can also mean “prompt” or “positive.” The adverb form is decisively;the noun form, decisiveness.

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Like/As

Like is a preposition. It should be followed by an object to make a prepositional phrase. As is a conjunction. It should be followed by a clause containing a subject and a verb. Incorrect: He runs like a gazelle does. (Like is followed by a clause.) Correct: He runs like a gazelle. Correct: He runs

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Good/Well

Good is an adjective. It describes nouns or pronouns. It may be used with descriptive linking verbs like look, feel, sound, taste, or be to describe the subject. Incorrect: The coffee tasted well this morning. Correct: The coffee tasted good this morning. Correct: The pitcher is looking good today. Well is normally an adverb. It

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Incredible/Incredulous

Incredible means “hard to believe,” literally “not able to be believed.” Incredulous means “skeptical” or “unbelieving.” It refers to a person’s response. The noun form of incredulous is incredulity. The opposite is credulous, or “gullible, believes anything.” Examples: Kim’s story was incredible. Arthur was incredulous as he listened to the story.

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Lie/Lay

Lay means “to place something down.” It is something you do to something else. It is a transitive verb. Incorrect: Lie the book on the table. Correct: Lay the book on the table. (It is being done to something else.) Lie means “to recline” or “be placed.” It does not act on anything or anyone

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