Writers On The Go


 Writers On The Go by Mindy Lawrence

A Refresher on Writing Bugaboos

Although most of us have had classes about grammar and usage, there are still times when we need a refresher on the use of certain words. We know them but how to use them sometimes slips our minds. Here are a few bugaboos and a refresher on how to use them.

Also, see The Frugal Editor (second edition) and Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips both by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Her books will enlighten you even more.

Whose vs. who’s
Both words are versions of the interrogative pronoun who.
Who’s is a contraction of who + is or who + has.
Whose means “belonging to whom,” and occasionally “of which.”


•    Who’s afraid of Frankenstein? (contraction)
•    Whose car is that? (possession)

Lie vs. Lay
You lie down, but you lay something down. The problem here is that the word lay shows up in both the past and present tenses. You only need a direct object with lay, you will know that the past tense is laid.

•    I would like to lie down and listen to the rain.
•    Lay the hammer on the table.

Me vs. I
If the people are the subject of the verb, you should use I. If the people are the objects of the verb, me is correct. To help you figure out whether to use me or I in a sentence, follow this hint.

Remove the other person from the sentence. If it sounds right, you’ve used the right word.

•    Jerry took I for a walk. (wrong)
•    Jerry took me for a walk (correct)

Pique vs. Peek vs. Peak
Pique means to stimulate interest. Peek means to take a look. Peak means the top of a mountain or something else high.

•    Reading about Frankenstein piqued my interest in monsters.
•    When I heard the noise, I had to peek out the window to see what it was.
•    She walked to the peak of the hill.

These are just a few of the words we often confuse. The more you write and edit or yourself, the better you will get on using these and other troublesome words.



Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Mindy Lawrence is a writer, ghost blogger, and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over 24 years and moved to Farmington in 2020. 

She proofread the Sharing with Writers newsletter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and wrote “An Itty-Bitty Column on Writing” there for ten years. She has been published in Writers' Digest magazine and interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered.



Karen Cioffi said...

Mindy, thanks for these refresher on tricky words. Another of mine is effect and affect.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for these great reminders and examples that writers need to use the right word at the right time for clear communication.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Awww, Mindy. I am honored that you recommended my books! And I agree. We need to review and language keeps moving—often in surprising ways!


lastpg said...

Mindy, I enjoyed your post as I so often have to fact check myself on the correct word or use of a word. Luckily, I enjoy looking words up. I remember an editor once said in a talk I attended that you know you're a writer when you enjoy looking up words in the dictionary. Then I knew for sure that I was in!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

@lastpg, I signed up for Merriam-Webster-Webster’s word a day! I really enjoy their little quizzes, too. Some are refreshers. Some are new for me!
Hugs! Stay safe!

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