Using Grammar Girl Podcasts to Teach about Commonly Confused Words

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This blog series is written by Julia Domenicucci, an editor at Macmillan Learning, in conjunction with Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.


Image of doors from which to choose


Today’s blog post is the last one for the spring semester! To send students off into the summer months, we’ll look at some easy-to-confuse words that they might use in day-to-day communications.


Podcasts have been around for a while, but their popularity seems to increase every day—and for good reason! They are engaging and creative, and they cover every topic imaginable. They are also great for the classroom: you can use them to maintain student engagement, accommodate different learning styles, and introduce multimodality.


LaunchPad and Achieve products include collections of assignable, ad-free Grammar Girl podcasts, which you can use to support your lessons. You can assign one (or all!) of these suggested podcasts for students to listen to before class. Each podcast also comes with a complete transcript, which is perfect for students who aren’t audio learners or otherwise prefer to read the content. To learn more about digital products and purchasing options, please visit Macmillan's English catalog or speak with your sales representative. 

If you are using LaunchPad, refer to the unit “Grammar Girl Podcasts” for instructions on assigning podcasts. You can also find the same information on the support page "Assign Grammar Girl Podcasts."

If you are using Achieve, you can find information on assigning Grammar Girl in Achieve on the support page "Add Grammar Girl and shared English content to your course." If your English Achieve product is copyright year 2021 or later, you are able to use a folder of suggested Grammar Girl podcasts in your course; please see “Using Suggested Grammar Girl Podcasts in Achieve for English Products” for more information.

Podcasts about Commonly Confused Words

  • Affect versus Effect [9:15]
  • Between versus Among [4:00]
  • Can versus May [4:29]
  • If versus Whether [3:05]
  • Less versus Fewer [6:34]
  • Jury-Rigged or Jerry-Rigged? [3:45]
  • Riffle versus Rifle [2:34]


Students can do a lot more with podcasts than simply listen to them. Use one of the following assignments to encourage students to engage further with the Grammar Girl podcasts.


Assignment A: As a class, listen to one or more of the above podcasts. Discuss what it is about these words that make them easy to confuse. Is it their meanings? Their spellings? A combination of the two? Some other reasons? Then, strategize ways to remember when to use the correct word.


Assignment B: Ask each student to find an example of a word they’ve used incorrectly in a recent paper or another form of writing, such as a text message or post on social media. (Alternately, select an example for the class to look at together.) Have each student write a short paragraph explaining how the word was used incorrectly, what word should have been used instead, and ways to remember the correct word in the future.


How have you used podcasts about word usage in your class? How else do you discuss commonly confused words? Let us know in the comments!


Credit: Pixabay Image 1767562 by qimono, used under a Pixaby License