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Commonly Confused Contract Terms

When drafting a contract, care must be taken to use exactly the right words to convey the desired meaning. Even a seemingly minor mistake, even one misplaced letter, can drastically alter the terms of a contract or render it unenforceable. The following chart illustrates how easily certain words can be confused or misused, and if you don't read over a contract very carefully, these common mistakes can be easy to miss.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should help alert you to some common errors and keep you on your toes in order to catch others. See FindLaw's Drafting Contracts section to learn more.

Affect: To alter, influence, or change
Effect: A result, or to bring about change

Alternate: A substitute or second choice, or to take turns
Alternative: One choice among various options

Among: Occurring in a group of three or more
Between: Occurring in a set of two

Assure: To convince
Insure: To guard against loss

Assure: To convince
Ensure: To make certain

Bimonthly: Every other month
Semimonthly: Twice a month

Biweekly: Every other week
Semiweekly: Twice a week

Capital: City that is the seat of local government, or relating to money, or an uppercase letter
Capitol: The building in which the legislature meets

Continual: Intermittent or repeated at intervals
Continuous: Without interruption

Discreet: Prudent or cautious
Discrete: Separate or detached

Eminent: High in rank
Imminent: About to occur

Farther: Greater distance
Further: Greater degree, time, or quantity

Fewer: A smaller number of units
Less: A smaller quantity

i.e.: That is
e.g.: For example

Imply: To suggest
Infer: To conclude

Its: Belonging to it
It's: It is

Mean: The number obtained by adding all values together and dividing by the number of values
Median: The value that falls in the middle of all of the recorded values, with an equal number of values above and below it

Practical: Useful in actual practice
Practicable: Capable of being put into practice

Principal: Head or chief
Principle: A basic truth or assumption

Stationary: Fixed or immovable
Stationery: Writing materials

Contracts are Confusing: Get Professional Legal Help Today

Small businesses generally must become "Jacks of all trades" in order to successfully run their operation. But the finer points of business law are often best left to a specialist. If you are drafing or about to sign a contract but need help understanding the terminology, you may want to consult with a business and commercial law attorney first.

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