Style Guide

​Comm​only misused words and phrases

accept: to receive; to agree
Example: I accept your suggestions.

except: apart from; but; excluding
Example: We approve all your suggestions except the last one.

​Amendments, ordinances, resolutions and rules are adopted or approved.
Bills are passed.
Laws are enacted

​advice (noun) recommendation; guidance
Example: EIA seeks advice from the American Statistical Association. 

advise (verb) to recommend; to suggest
Example: We must advise you that email and facsimile are insecure means of transmission.
​affect: to influence
Example: Policy decisions affect energy markets.

effect: a result; to bring about; being in full force
Example: What effect will the election have on the Supreme Court?
​alternate (verb) to change back and forth. Can be used as a verb with or without an object.
Example: When I cross-train, I alternate between running and cycling.

alternative (noun) a choice between two things or possibilities.
Example: An alternative to driving your car is taking public transportation. When the weather is too cold, the alternative is to stay inside.
between: connecting or comparing the space between two objects 
Example: The driving distance between Baltimore and Philadelphia is surprisingly short.

among: in or into the midst of; connecting or comparing more than two objects
Example: Feel free to speak freely. You're among friends.

​biannual means twice a year and is a synonym for semiannual

biennial means every two years

Avoid using these terms if possible. No hyphens.

compare to: to examine and contrast
Example: When compared to the cost of living in New York City, Washington, DC is an affordable city.

compare with: to describe as similar to something; to liken to
Example: Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry can be compared with Allen Ginsberg's.

complement: to complete; something that completes
Examples: Pipelines complement tankers at key locations by relieving bottlenecks. This Climate Wise Primer is a complement to EIA's Form 1605.

compliment: to praise; an expression of praise
Examples: My boss complimented me for my good work. We take it as a compliment that journalists quote our research.​
​compose: to create or put together. 
Example: The Charlotte City Council is composed of 11 council members and one mayor.

comprise: to contain, to include all or embrace. The construction “comprised of” is incorrect.
Example: The Charlotte City Council comprises 11 council members and one mayor. 

continuously: uninterrupted or constant
Example: The video plays continuously.

continually: recurring often
Example: We continually review and update our policies.
ensure: to make certain
Example: We monitor network traffic to ensure site security.

insure: to protect against financial loss
Example: Indemnity clubs insure the tankers that transport petroleum imported into the United States. 

assure: to state with confidence; to declare earnestly
Example: The director assured the staff that the project budget was adequate.
every day (adverb): each day, daily
Example: She makes it a point to exercise every day.

Everyday (adjective): happening or used every day
Example: Everyday tasks like shopping and housework pose a challenge for some elderly citizens.
farther: at or to a greater distance
Example: An average vehicle traveled farther in 1994 than in 1988.

further: moreover; to a greater extent 
Example: In the United Kingdom, deregulation is further along than it is in other countries.
fewer: of a smaller number
Example: Express lines at grocery stores should be labeled "15 items or fewer."

less than/more than: a smaller amount or degree
Example: The turnout for the game was less than expected.

under and over both refer to spatial designation
Example: The mechanic slid under the car. 

Avoid using "under" and "over" when referrring to amounts. Instead, use "less than" or "more than." 
Flier: preferred term for a handbill or an aviator. 
Examples: Corporate Communications printed 10,000 fliers that were handed out during the game. John Travolta is not only a famous actor; he is also a skilled flier.

Flyer: proper name for some trains and buses.
Example: I took the Siberian Express to Moscow, then hopped on the Eastern Flyer to Beijing. 
impact (noun) can be used in place of effect, but use sparingly and only to describe an effect that is dramatic. Otherwise, use effect.
Examples: State budget cuts will have a dramatic impact on the future of certain programs. The impact will be felt for years to come. What effect will tax rates have on property values? 

impact (verb) avoid if possible and use affect instead
Example: Budget cuts will greatly affect our ability to serve our citizens.

TIP: If you can put an article such as "an" or "the" in front of "impact," you are using it in the most proper way—as a noun.
Example: He wondered what the impact of the changes would be.

Irregardless is a double negative and the word does not exist. Use regardless instead.

Example: The governor vetoed the bill regardless of public outcry. 

it’s: A contraction that means it is.
Example: It's a shame the movie turned out to be so bad.

its is: a possessive construction.
Example: The movie's plot was written well, but its characters weren't developed enough.
​lay: An action word that takes a direct object.
Examples: He lay the coat on the bed.

lie: Indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plan and does not take a direct object.
Example: He is ill and needs to lie down. 
​layoff (noun)
Example: Bank of America announced massive layoffs last week.

lay off (verb) 
Example: The CEO of Duke Energy said the company does not expect to lay off any employees this year.
less than: of a lesser quantity
Example: You can't go out for dinner and a movie for less than $50 these days.

under: below; at a lower level than
Examples: It's water under the bridge. As a manager, she is responsible for the actions of those under her.
login/logoff/logout (noun) 
Example: Your login is usually your email address

log in/log off/log out (verb) 
Example: You should log out of the system when you're finished in order to protect your personal information.
​more than: of a greater quantity
Example: The cost of owning car is often more than the cost of public transportation.

over: above or in excess of
Example: The bridge on I-85 crosses over the Catawba River.
​online: involving the internet
Example: I can't get online because my modem is broken.

on-line: operational, ready for use
Example: The nuclear power reactor came on-line last year.
Hyphenate only when using it as a compound modifier.
Example: She works part time, but her sister is still looking for a part-time job.
​precede: to go before
Example: The 1992 and 1994 editions precede the current one.

proceed: to continue
Example: Once you make your selections, you may proceed to the checkout counter. 
soon; in a little while
Example: He's parking his care and will be here presently.

TIP: Do not use "presently" to imply "currently," "now," or "at present."


principal: foremost; head of a school; a sum of money
Examples: The principal use for this wax is in candles. Mr. Jones was named principal of Maywood Elementary School. You paid back the principal of your loan, but you still have interest.

principle: a rule; standard of good behavior
Example: The decision was based on principle, not profit.
​real time (noun)
Example: As precincts reported in, the newspaper provided election results in real time on its website.

real-time (adjective)
Example: I ​​watched real-time scores of the football game on my smart phone.
sight: the act of seeing 
Example: Customers were excited by the sight of the new model.

cite: to quote or document
Example: Please cite all of your sources of information.

site: a location
Example: We don't know how much radium-bearing material is processed at the Canonsburg Mill site.
than: compared with
Example: Developed economies use oil much more intensively than the developing economies.

then: at that time; next in time
Example: The maps were developed using GIS software and then converted to PDF format.
website: a collection of webpages. Website is a compound word. Webcast is also a compound word. 
Example: Mecklenburg County's website contains lots of information.

web page: a single webpage (with a single URL) 
Example: The web page lists everything you need to know about recylcing.
​which a pronoun used to introduce non-essential information. In most cases, use a comma before which
Example: The price of crude oil, which started the year at about $42 per barrel, reached $70 per barrel in early September.

that is a pronoun used to introduce essential information. Don't use a comma before that
Example: Electric power plants that burn fossil fuels emit pollutants linked to acid rain.
who: Use when referring to people or named animals. 
Example: He’s the one who threw the ball at me. We were relieved that Daisy, the dog who bit my daughter, doesn't have rabies.

that: Use when referring to inanimate objects or animals without a name. 
Example: Here's the ball that hit me in the shoulder. I managed to capture the cat that ran in front of my car.
your: belonging to you 
Example: Your electricity use is measured with a meter.

you're: contraction for "you are"
Example: Your power bill might go up if you're not careful.

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