Articulate language is essential for cultivating an image of professionalism and competence, and misusing words will undercut our efforts on this front. Scan this list of commonly confused and misused words to ensure you are not guilty of poor word choice:

Accept/Except
Accept means to receive or approve. Except refers to exclusion. (I accept your proposal, except for the last clause.)

Affect/Effect
Affect is a verb that means to have an influence on. (His illness did not affect his performance.) Effect is a noun that means a result. (His encouragement had a positive effect on the team.)

Anxious/Eager
Anxious suggests apprehension. (She was anxious about her upcoming performance review.) Eager suggests excitement, joyful expectation. (The boy was eager to get to the park.)

Bimonthly/Semimonthly
Bimonthly is tricky since it has two accepted meanings that are very different. Its most common meaning is every other month, but is also accepted to mean twice a month. Semimonthly always means twice a month.

Cite/Site
Cite is a verb that means to quote as an authority or example. (He cited several sources in his report.) Site is a noun meaning location. (They chose a new site for their corporate headquarters.)

Complement/Compliment
Complement means something that enhances or completes, makes up a whole. Compliment refers to an expression of praise or admiration. (Her earrings were the perfect complement to her dress, and she received several compliments on her outfit.)

Comprise/Compose
A whole is composed of parts; parts comprise the whole. (The book is composed of three chapters. Three chapters comprise the book.)

Connote/Denote
Connote means to imply or suggest. (Good eye contact connotes interest and engagement.) Denote means to represent precisely. (The symbol denotes the number 3.14159.)

Continual/Continuous
Continual means ongoing, frequently recurring. (His study session was continually interrupted by phone calls.) Continuous means without interruption. (The clock ticks continuously 24 hours a day.)

Discreet/Discrete
Discreet means prudent, diplomatic. (Her discreet handling of his mistake spared him embarrassment.) Discrete means separate and distinct. (Each company in the conglomerate operates as a discrete entity.)

Disinterested/Uninterested
Disinterested means impartial or unbiased. (We are seeking a disinterested mediator to oversee the negotiations.) Uninterested means not interested or indifferent. (My customer seemed uninterested in our newest product offering.)

Ensure/Insure
To ensure is to make certain. (He used frequent response checks to ensure his audience was engaged.) To insure is to protect against loss, especially financial loss. (The mortgage company requires home owners insure their property against fire and other disasters.)

Farther/Further
Farther is used literally, in reference to specific or measurable distances. (The new office will be five miles farther from home than the old office.) Further is used to communicate degrees or extent in a more abstract manner. (Emily is further along in her sales training than Sandra.)

Fewer/Less
Use fewer when referring to a specific number. (Our sales department has fewer team members than it did two years ago.) Use less when referring to an abstract or immeasurable amount. (His home has less storage than mine.)

I.e./E.g.
The abbreviation i.e. is used in place of, "in other words." (The apple of my eye (i.e., my son) will start college in the fall.) The abbreviation e.g. means "for example." (Their menu offers a broad selection (e.g., steaks, pasta, salad, sandwiches), and will accommodate everyone's needs.)

Lay/Lie
To lie means to recline or rest. It is an action taken by the subject of the sentence. (I lie down for a nap every afternoon.) To lay means to place or put and describes an action that is done to something by the subject. (I lay my keys on the table each day when I get home.)

Precede/Proceed
Precede means to come before. (A great deal of thought preceded her decision to change offices.) Proceed means to move forward. (Once the decision was made, she proceeded quickly with packing up her desk.)

Stationary/Stationery
Stationary is an adjective that means fixed or unmoving. (The stationary bike was his favorite piece of equipment at the gym.) Stationery refers to paper writing materials. (She wrote thank you notes on her personal stationery.)

Who's/Whose
Who's is the contraction of who is. Whose is the possessive form of who. (Who's going to figure out whose coat this is?)

Who/That
Use who when referring to people; use that when referring to anything else. (The man who won the lottery had a mountain of bills that needed to be paid.)Word misuse reflects ignorance, and that undermines our efforts to cultivate trust and respect among our customers, peers and leaders. Were there words on this list that tripped you up? Continue to hone your vocabulary skills to boost your image and your sales effectiveness.