Tips on Proper Word Use

I don’t mean to nitpick, but here are a couple of reminders on how to use words that are often used improperly.

Over, more than - Many citizen journalists use the word ‘over’ when writing about numbers, such as: “over 200 people were at the event” or “she makes over $50,000 a year.”

According to The Associated Press Stylebook, the words ‘more than’ are preferred when dealing with numbers, so it should be: “more than 200 people were at the event” and “she makes more than $50,000 a year.”

The word ‘over’ should be used to refer to spatial relationships. For example, “the ball was thrown over the boy’s head.”

Burglary, robbery - For news people, there is a huge difference between a burglary and a robbery. A burglary involves entering a building and remaining there with the intent to commit a crime. A robbery involves the use of violence or threat while committing a theft or stealing.

Demolish, destroy – Both words mean something is gone completely and for good. It would be inaccurate to say the building was partially destroyed and it would be redundant to say it was totally destroyed.

Below are examples of words that get misused when people are in a hurry. Slow down when you are writing. Think about what you are trying to say and whether you used the correct word.

Cite, site, sight – Cite means to summon someone to appear in a court of law, or to refer to or quote a resource or example. He cited The AP Stylebook in defending his use of more than. Site is a location. Sight is the act of seeing or a remarkable view.

There, their – There is a place. Their is a possessive. The house is located there, but it is their home.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (

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About The Author

NACJ trainer

Susan Carson Cormier is a co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists and co-author of the "Handbook for Citizen Journalists." As the head coach at the NACJ, Cormier is in charge of training citizen journalists the basics in how to report and write news, sports and feature stories.

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06 2011

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