Confusing Words: Except & Accept
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
They are deadly, these commonly confused words. Except/accept, Effect/Affect, too/to, you're/your, who/whom, it’s/its, and more. They are grenades, I tell you: stealthy, invasive, programmed for destruction. And they annihilate everything in their path: a text, an article, an application, even a relationship! Now, you know it’s the truth! Weren’t you the one who scheduled a session with your psychotherapist just because your blind date wrote, “Were should I meet you!”? Word has it you hyperventilated for several minutes then brushed off the angst and responded trustingly. But when he followed up with an “OK, see you their,” you had to employ every healing potion you knew of: bath salts, acupuncture, cryogenics, psychotherapy!
It’s a sad reality, but commonly confused words are everywhere: in newspapers, blogs, websites, manuscripts, dissertations, etc. – even the teleprompter. And they slaughter without mercy. So I’ve designed this series to deal with the confusion and save lives, beginning with except and accept.
The good thing about grammar is that, although there are technical explanations for various aspects of it, there are easy ways – tricks of the trade – to help you communicate what you really mean in the moment as well as help you remember how to use them in the future.
EXCEPT VS. ACCEPT
The formal definition of except is “excluding; save; but.” And there are varied relatives of the word like exception (as in - with the exception of) So example sentences would be:
a. They all wore shoes except me
b. I am going to buy every fruit you have with the exception of the bananas
c. I'm allergic to marriage, but with him, I'll make an exception
d. Puppies are usually playful, with the exception of this one
Those are fairly simple sentences indicating that everybody had on shoes, but I did not. And I’m taking home all the fruits but not the bananas. Notice the big X in the word except. Ex (X) typically indicates that something is being crossed out, not being used, being trashed. In this case, it’s the shoes and the bananas. You learned the meaning of the 24th letter of the alphabet in elementary school when the test came back with the big X across the brilliant answer you gave. You could have used it for artwork really; it was intentional, large, and merciless. That was your introduction to psychotherapy.
Perhaps that’s where the term ex-boyfriend came from. He no longer holds romantic significance in your life; you’ve crossed him out. So if your intention is to communicate that something is being discarded in some way, then X marks the spot. Choose except.
Accept, on the other hand, means several things along the same spectrum.
1. To take or receive something being offered
2. To agree to something
3. To respond favorably to something.
4. To regard as true or appropriate. To believe something
So - I’ve accepted the job offer from ABC Company. Or I’ve accepted the engagement ring. I am agreeing to this thing, responding favorably to it; I am making it part of my history.
Deciding which you should be using – accept or except – depends on what you are trying to say. Are you crossing off this item, this opportunity, this person? Or are you agreeing or responding favorably?
I hope this tidbit of information is sufficiently helpful, particularly for the next time the grenade is tossed during the dating game. As you dive for cover unto your therapist’s couch or into the healing waters of a therapeutic bath, reflect on your learning and feel empowered! You’ve got this! You can make an exception and accept the individual irrespective of the flaw. Or you can do the next best thing and choose sanity…by way of escape.