Today we are tackling another list of commonly confused words.
a while or awhile
A while is used as a noun meaning a length of time.
I was out of town for a while.
Awhile is an adverb, meaning “for a time,” or literally, “for a while”.
I slept awhile before dinner.
The words can be used almost interchangeably – but a while is used with a preposition, such as for (I slept for a while) or ago (I left work a while ago).
a lot or alot
Although it is common in informal writing, alot is not a word.
A lot of people get this one wrong.
all right or alright
All right is used to say OK, yes, go ahead.
Alright is not a word.
As grammarian Bill Walsh said in his book Lapsing Into a Comma, “We word nerds have known since second grade that alright is not all right.”
always or all ways
All ways means “total number of methods.”
He tried all ways to fix the faucet.
Always means “at all times” or “constantly.”
The mail always arrives before noon.
among or between
Between is about choosing between two options.
David had to make a choice between Albany and San Diego.
Among usually refers to more than two options.
The money had to be divided among the heirs.
Among can also be used with a noun that refers to a group.
The news caused a panic among the crowd.
partly or partially
These words are often used interchangeably but there is a difference.
Partially refers more to a degree, state or condition
She was partially resigned to the idea.
Partly refers to a part of something, distinct from the whole, usually a physical object.
The cable was partly underground.
preventive or preventative
Preventive is an adjective meaning to prevent or hinder.
My car needs some preventive maintenance.
Preventative is a noun, meaning a remedy that prevents or slows the course of an illness or problem.
The doctor recommended several preventatives.
regardless or irregardless
Irregardless is not a word. Use only regardless.
People get confused because of the word “irrespective,” which means the same thing as regardless and is correct. The reason you can’t use irregardless is that the “ir” prefix and the “less” suffix are both negatives and they essentially cancel each other out.
When used as an adjective, regardless (usually followed by of ) means unconcerned, indifferent, careless about the consequences.
He kept walking regardless of the pain in his foot.
When used as an adverb, regardless means in spite of everything, anyway.
Despite her recent troubles she has been carrying on regardless.
If you’ve ever had trouble with any of these words, I hope this list helps clear things up. Please leave a comment if you have problems with any other words or grammar rules, and we can go through them in future posts.