Ad and Add – The New Commonly Misused Words

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Okay, I will admit it. The improper usage of the words “ad” and “add” are beginning to become a pet peeve of mine. The English language is full of quirky words that sound the same but spelled differently and have different meanings. They are commonly confused although English teachers around the world spend an enormous amount of time teaching us about such little words as their, there, and they’re or to, too, and two.

English was not my favorite subject in school and I am not an English scholar. I make mistakes. However, I do remember the majority of commonly misused words grilled into every student. I do not remember the words “ad” and “add” included in all these mischievous words. Was I sleeping in class that day? I don’t believe so. In fact, there are plenty of “Common Misused Words and Phrases” lists available on reputable reference and education web sites. Guess what! “Ad” and “Add” are not on the many lists I checked. I would really like to know – WHY NOT?!

I have seen the misuse of these two little words escalate immensely in the past decade. This error seems to appear everywhere these days – online and offline, by casual and professional writers, in blogs, articles, news, newsletters, web content, magazines, newspapers, and books. Where are the grammar police?

What is the big deal you are wondering? First, writers should strive for accuracy if they expect to be taken seriously as a writer. Next, let’s look at meaning and misuse to see the effect on the content.

“Ad” is short for advertisement. “Add” is a math function or joining two or more items together – short for addition or adding. Technically, “add” is a verb while “addition” is the noun.

If you write, “Ad blooming plants to your garden to ad a splash of color.” you have actually said, “Advertise blooming plants to your garden to advertise a splash of color.” If you write, “Be sure to submit your add by the deadline for inclusion in Sunday’s classified adds.” you definitely will not be getting my ad business. How could I possibly have confidence that you will not mess up my important ad?

You see, errors like this can totally change the meaning of the content and have undesirable consequences. Besides causing a loss of customers or a job, the cost or time and money to correct errors, you could also lose potential readership. This error always makes me stop short in my tracks. I have to stop and reread the content to see what it really says because it makes no sense. It disrupts the flow of the article and my attention. If you are lucky, I will finish reading. If you are not so lucky, I will move along with tons of other potential readers.

So whether you are a writer working on new material or you are just leaving a simple note for your spouse or child, ask yourself…. is it ad(vertisement) or add(ition)? The grammar police will thank you for making their job easier.


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