Entire books are devoted to words that we frequently mix up and mangle. "100 Words Almost Everyone Mixes Up and Mangles" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is one of our favorites.
We're going to add five more to the mix, based on recent reader email and our own grammar gripes.
Anyway/anyways: "One of my greatest irritants is the all too common, increasing and awful use of 'anyways,' as opposed to the singular and correct version, 'anyway,'" Evan Dandamudi wrote to us recently. "Like fingernails on a chalkboard." Indeed, several dictionaries refer to "anyways" as "nonstandard." But we'll stop short of calling it wrong. Fowler's Modern English Usage guide says both forms can mean "in any way, in any respect, at all," and notes an early use of the "s" version in the "Book of Common Prayer." ("All those who are any ways afflicted … in mind, body or estate.")
Number/amount: Terrible news out of Philadelphia last week, when the
Empathic/empathetic: We hear these used interchangeably and, as it turns out, that's just fine. Both words mean "Of, relating to, or involving empathy; having empathy to or with persons, etc." says Oxford English Dictionaries, which dates the first use of "empathic" at 1909 and the first use of "empathetic" at 1932. So if you're deciding which form is more correct, "empathic" has "I was here first" on its side.
Farther/further: Grammar blogger, podcaster and author Mignon "Grammar Girl" Fogarty tells of a time she was on "The
Preventive/preventative: Reader Robert Fried calls the latter a "fingers on the chalkboard" pet peeve. "I often tell people that there is no word 'preventative' because there is no word 'preventation,'" he writes. Good point! But multiple dictionaries beg to differ. "Preventive, also preventative," says The American Heritage Dictionary, "Intended or used to prevent or hinder; acting as an obstacle."