Common Writing Errors: Can You Bear to Bare Your Mistakes?

Bear or bare

Can you bear to bare your mistakes?

Bear vs bare

The rule isn’t at all complicated, but we’ve seen “bare” and “bear” written incorrectly so many times that we had to find out why. After a bit of research and ridiculing (sorrrrry… we couldn’t help ourselves), we think we’ve figured out the answer:

We all know that a “bear” is a large mammal – and that makes us suspicious of using the same spelling for any other meanings.

The good news is that it’s really bloomin’ simple to remember when to use “bear” and when to use “bare”…

  • "Bare" relates to being exposed/uncovered/empty in some way.
  • EVERYTHING else uses the word "bear".

Here are some examples:

Bare – anything that relates to there not being much of something (think: exposed, uncovered, without)

  • Don’t go out in bare feet: it’s freezing outside
  • He constructed that desk with his own bare hands
  • I just bared my soul to you… and that’s what you say in return??
  • The fridge at home is bare, so I guess that means a Pret lunch for me

Bear – everything else

  • I come bearing bad news… sorry
  • Bear left at the next junction
  • I can’t bear you talking about her like that
  • Your son bears quite a resemblance to the milkman
Bear or bare

E.g. vs i.e.

E.g. and i.e. are not the same. Most of the time, we find people using “i.e.” when they mean “e.g.”, and we – uncharitably – think this might have something to do with the fact that “i.e.” seems more intelligent and proper. After all, schoolkids use “e.g.”. Only adults doing important work know how to use “i.e.”. Unfortunately, they usually don’t.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • E.g. means “for example”. That should be easy enough to remember. (And if it isn’t, think of “e.g.” as standing for “example given”. It doesn’t, but don’t worry about that.)
  • I.e. isn’t used for listing examples: it’s there to clarify or explain a statement you’ve just made. If you can replace “i.e.” with “in other words”, you’re using it correctly. (Another tip is to think of “i.e.” as standing for “in essence”. Again: it doesn’t, but don’t worry about that.)

In case you’re interested, “i.e.” originates from the Latin “id est” (meaning: “that is to say”), while “e.g.” originates from the Latin “exampli gratia” (meaning: “for example”).

Here are some examples of how to use them both in sentences:

E.g.

  • Can you pick up some vegetables for dinner? E.g. carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers…
  • I love listening to pop music (e.g. Justin Bieber, Pet Shop Boys and Take That).
  • Some studies (e.g. Baker 2005) support this assertion.

I.e.

  • I love eating chips, doughnuts and churros – i.e. anything that’s been fried.
  • I always wear my lucky shoes during board meetings, i.e. the ones with the red heels.
  • The service charge is included (i.e. you don’t have to leave a tip).

If you’re ever stuck, try replacing the abbreviations with their real meanings and see if the sentence still works.

Eg vs ie

Use vs utilise

“Utilise” is another of those words that people opt for because the shorter variant, “use”, seems a bit too… well, easy. Amateur. Unprofessional.

Unfortunately, “utilise” often comes across as try-hard and pretentious – especially when “use” would be perfectly adequate. What’s more, there is a subtle difference between the two words: “use” refers to employing something for a given purpose, whereas “utilise” traditionally meant “finding a new, profitable or practical use” for something. For example:

  • “We were unable to utilise the new computers” would mean “We couldn’t find a way to make good or effective use of the new computers”.
  • “We were unable to use the new computers” would mean “We couldn’t figure out how to turn the darn things on”.

BUT (big but!) no one really pays attention to this subtle difference anymore, and most style guides simply that agree that “utilise” is a pompous, unnecessary way to say “use”. In Eric Partridge’s book, Usage and Abusage, he says: “[utilise] is, 99 times out of 100, much inferior to use; the other one time it is merely inferior”.

Want advice on other common writing errors?

Let us know what other words/phrases confuse you, and we’ll include them in another post soon!

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