Red Pen Diaries: Any Which Way But Loose

Red Pen Diaries: Advice and Observations on Writing and the English LanguageWhenever I see the word "loose" misused, I am tempted to lose it...

Lose (say: looz) is a verb with a number of meanings, the main ones being "to misplace or fail to keep something," "to fail to win," or "to be deprived of something."

Loose (say: looss) can be an adjective, verb, or adverb; as an adjective it generally means "not securely fastened" or "not tight-fitting." In none of its forms or senses does it have anything to do with losing something.

Yet if I had a nickel for every time I saw someone write that their favorite team's opponent is "going to loose the game big time" or somesuch... well, you wouldn't be reading this because I'd be a millionaire living out my days on the beach of some tropical island, cold beer perpetually at my elbow.

Incorrect: "Did you loose your keys again?"

Correct: "You always lose your keys."

You don't want to be the kind of loser who mixes these two words up, do you?


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