Appendix III: Word Wise




f., ff. – and the following page or pages.

Used in referencing systems: p. 321 ff.

(See abbreviations.)



To facilitate is to make easier. Actions and procedures are thus facilitated, not people. A variety of teaching methods should be used in order
to facilitate students’ learning
(correct); A variety of teaching methods should be used in order to facilitate students with their learning (incorrect).


fact, factor.

A fact is a factor only when it is influential, contributing to a result. A mere truth, circumstance or feature is a fact. It is a fact that Germany invaded
Poland in 1939, but the invasion was a factor of the Second World War.


faint – (n. & v.) collapse; (adj.) slight, vague, unclear.
feint – (n.) a sham or pretence; (v.) to effect a sham or pretence.


fair, fare.

Fair – (adj.) attractive; light-coloured; just, unbiased; of average-to-good quality; (of the weather) warm and dry; (n.) a gathering of trade stalls, an
exhibition; an amusement park. Fare – (n.) travel fee; a range of food; (v.) travel; progress; end, turn out.



A fallacy is a result of flawed logic, not flawed opinion. Some men are MPs; some MPs are women; therefore some men are women, is a fallacy.
The moon is made of green cheese is a falsehood.

(See fallacies.)


farther, further.

In the context of distance (literally and figuratively), either word may be used. Further is more natural in speech and informal writing, while farther
(the choice of The Times)1 is sometimes formally preferred. Further alone is used to mean 'additionally', 'furthermore’ or ‘more’: Have you anything
further to say?


fatal – deadly: a fatal wound.
fateful – momentous, important: a fateful decision.


fatwa – a ruling by an Islamic court, not necessarily a punitive sentence.


fearful – in fear, frightened: fearful of flying; terrible: a fearful accident.
fearsome – causing fear or fright: the tiger is a fearsome beast.


feedback – the return of an electronic signal.

A vastly overused metaphor, this word has even been transformed into a phrasal verb: I’ll feed back to you on that later. Options: (n.) advice,
criticismreaction, reply, response; (v.) acknowledge, advise, answer, reply, respond.


feminine – to do with women; having the qualities or characteristics of a woman.
effeminate – (of a man) having the sexual or behavioural characteristics of a woman.


ferment – boil, seethe, bubble, brew.
foment – agitate, provoke, stir up.


fetid – stinking.
foetid – (variant spelling)

Burchfield,2 and The Oxford Compendium3 give fetid as the dominant spelling, Burchfield also declaring it to be the only legitimate spelling. The
4  also opts for fetid, but The Times5 prefers foetid.


fewer, less.

Fewer is used with count nouns (nouns that can form plurals and be used with the indefinite article a or an): fewer people, fewer options. Less is
used with mass nouns (nouns that have no plurals and consequently cannot be used with the indefinite article): 
less traffic, less money. Phrases
such as ten items or less and less cars on the road are grammatically incorrect.


fiancé – a betrothed male.
fiancée – a betrothed female.

Unlike divorcee, there is to date no common-gender alternative.


fictional, fictitious.

Fictional has the stronger literary association: Many experts believe the fictional Copperfield to be Dickens himself. Fictitious is more suitable in
non-literary contexts to mean ‘imaginary’, ‘non-existent’ or ‘unreal’: Every week, the prisoner would write a letter to his fictitious wife.


finalise – (UK)
finalize – (US & UK)

This American verb is accepted by Burchfield6 but banned by The Guardian.7 Options: accomplish, bring to an end, complete, conclude, confirm,
decide, finish, secure, settle.

(See also -ise- and -ize-ending verbs.)


firemen – (obsolete)
firefighters – (current)


firm – strictly speaking, a partnership with unlimited liability, not a company.


first, second, third.
firstly, secondly, thirdly.

To introduce a sequence of points or topics, either form is acceptable. The Guardian opts for first, second, third,8 while The Times follows the
curious tradition of first, secondly, thirdly.9


fjord – (recommended)
fiord – (variant)


flair, flare, flared.

Flair – aptitude, talent: a flair for music. Flare – (n.) a flame; (v.) widen; burst suddenly into bright flame: flare up; become suddenly angry. Flared
(adj.) a flared skirt.


flaunt – display flamboyantly: flaunt one’s wealth.
flout – show contempt or disrespect for: flout the rules.


flounder – struggle, stumble, move clumsily.
founder – fill with water and sink; fall or sink; become stuck (especially a ship).


fluoridate – to introduce fluorine to drinking water.
fluorinate – to introduce fluorine to compounds.

There is no word fluoridise (-ize).


flyer – (UK)
flier– (US)

(But see drier, dryer.)


focused, focusing – (recommended)
focussed, focussing – (variant)


foetus – (UK)
fetus – (US)


forbear – (v.) refrain from, abstain from.
forebear – (n.) an ancestor or progenitor.


forceable – capable of being forced: a forceable door.
forcible – achieved by force: a forcible confession, a forcible entry.


foregone – previous, predictable: a foregone conclusion.
forgone – did without: Late for work, I had forgone breakfast.


forensic, forensics.

Strictly speaking, forensic is to do with courts of law, while expertise in the technical aspects of courtroom evidence is properly called forensic
. By common usage, however, forensics has come to mean ‘forensic science’.


for ever, forever.

For ever – permanently, for all time: Chivalry has been lost for ever. Forever – continually, persistently, repeatedly (often disapprovingly): He is
forever washing his car
; She is forever losing her key.


formally – in accordance with rules and conventions.
formerly – previously.



The stress in on the first syllable in standard British pronunciation.


formulae, formulas.

Formulae in chemistry and mathematics; formulas in all other contexts.

(See English- and Latin-ending plurals.)


forthcoming – (UK)
upcoming – (US and increasingly UK)

In 1998, Burchfield wrote that upcoming ‘is gradually making its way into English-speaking countries outside the US, but is by no means ousting
forthcoming yet’10 With upcoming now the preference of many in the media, including BBC news presenters, the usurpation is unfortunately all
but complete.


franchiser – (recommended)
franchisor – (variant)


fresh, freshly.

(See bad, badly.)


fuck, f***.

(See obscenities.)


fulfil, fulfilment – (UK)
fulfill, fulfillment (or fulfilment) – (US)

But always fulfilled, fulfilling.


full time – (n.) He took the full time to finish the examination.
full-time – (adj. & adv.) He found full-time employment; He works full-time.

(See also the hyphen)



Although this word once meant 'abundant', its current meaning is ‘obsequious’ or ‘showing excessive flattery to the point of disgust’. Thus fulsome
praise more accurately comes from sycophants than genuine admirers.


funnel, funnelled, funnelling – (UK)
funnel, funneled, funneling – (US)


fused sentence.

An error of grammar in which two or more sentences are incorrectly fused into one, usually involving the use of a comma instead of a full stop:
You need take no action, however, you might wish to keep this letter for your records.

(See fused sentences.)



The Times Style Guide. No longer available on lineMultiple access, 200203.
2 R. W. Burchfield (ed.), The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Third Revised Edition, OUP, Oxford, 1998.
The Oxford Compendium Concise Dictionary, 9th Edition, OUP, 1995.
4 The Guardian Style Guide. Multiple access, 200203.
5 The Times Style Guide.
Burchfield, op. cit.
The Guardian Style Guide.
9 The Times Style Guide.
10 Burchfield, op. cit.






















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