Bad spelling is not a serious vice, though it's unlikely to impress employers and it's easily avoided. The following are particularly frequent and distracting spelling mistakes in philosophy essays. It's ....
Grammar, Meaning, Style
Argue. If Smith’s arguing a claim, is he defending it or opposing it? Use argue for or argue against.
Colons :. These anticipate delivery of the goods invoked by what precedes the colon, as in She studied the three most famous empiricists: Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, or She argued as follows: if determinism is true, then our actions were predictable before we were born; determinism is true; therefore, our actions are unfree (note also how semi-colons are used here).
Compare with, compare to. According to a useful convention, comparing to is identifying similarities, contrast comparing with, hence I leave it open that you might be gloomy if I compare you with a summer's day, but not if I compare you to one. (These aren't Glaswegian summer days we're talking about.)
Disinterested, uninterested. Many are uninterested in politics; few are disinterested (that is, even if it bores them, politics affects their interests).
Forward an argument? You forward emails, but you advance (or put forward) arguments or objections.
Momentarily, presently. Worry if the announcement says that the plane will be airborne momentarily, but not if it says it will be airborne presently. Momentarily in British English means for a moment, not in a moment. Presently means in a moment, not currently.
Only. Place “only” next to the word you want to qualify. Contrast the following:
Inverted commas. One use of inverted commas is to report directly someone's words, e.g. Galileo said, "La Terra muove", as opposed to indirectly, e.g. Galileo said that the Earth moves. But inverted commas have a couple of other important uses:
Use and mention. In the philosophical senses of use and mention, one uses a word to speak of its referent but mentions it to speak of the word itself. Usually the clearest way of mentioning a word is to put it in inverted commas, as in
Reject, refute. Some creationists think they've refuted the theory of evolution, but they haven't, although obviously they reject it. To reject p is to deny p; to refute p is to show it to be false, which can be done only if p really is false. You can reject p by saying "I reject p"; you can't refute it by saying "I refute p". Refutation takes work.
Use, utilise. Why use utilise rather than use? Some, I suspect, like that it sounds more technical. But it's ugly and longer.
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