Grammar Corner: Ad vs. Add

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In this edition of Grammar Corner, we discuss some of the most widely used grammar errors in the English language. We don’t just correct you, though; we pinpoint exactly why a particular word/phrase/idiom is used incorrectly, while providing the context for each mistake, and then providing the right word/phrase/idiom.

Most of the time, a grammar error occurs because of homophones. Homophones are two words that sound exactly the same, but mean vastly different things. But it’s not just their meaning that’s different; homophones can also function as vastly different parts of speech.

In this edition, we discuss a common grammar error: ad vs. add. With only one letter separating the two, it’s easy to confuse this pair for each other; however, their meaning in context, as well as function, varies greatly and is never interchangeable. We’re here to shed light on them:

When to Use Ad

Image from Pixabay

The word “ad” is actually a colloquial term; it is the shortened form of the word ‘advertisement’, which makes it a noun. The word ‘ad’ was first used in 1841. Back then, printers charged people by the letter, and so crafty businessmen sought to cut costs by finding words that they can shorten without it being unintelligible, thus, an advertisement was shortened to ad, and it has become widely used in both informal speech and informal writing. However, take note that, in formal writing, the full word ‘advertisment’ should be used. For example:

The Mayor didn’t understand why his military-themed political ad wasn’t resonating with veterans, until he realized that his interns had used members of the Salvation Army for the ad instead of actual soldiers.

To address the lateness of her Mcdonald’s order last week, Karen took out a full-page ad in the neighborhood newsletter, something that people didn’t know you could do.

To make my undergraduate thesis easier, and to help pay for my crippling student debt,  I have devised a way for people to put advertisements throughout my paper.

When to Use Add

Image from Pixabay

On the other hand, the word “add”, while able to be used as the shortened form of the word ‘addition’, functions more as a verb rather than as a noun. To add means to combine things, usually numbers, to create a new thing like a sum. For example:

No, Kevin, if you add 6 and 9 together, you get 15, NOT 69.

How did you get 350 if you were just adding 25 and 4?

However, the word ‘add’ can also be used in a general sense and doesn’t necessarily have to involve numbers, but rather just as a way to combine something with something else. For example:

If you added up all the cheeseburgers you just ate, you could literally create a two-story-high tower, so why are you surprised about your heart attack just now?

Like what was mentioned in the original contract, trips to Taco Bell do not add to your Frequent Flyer Miles, even if you used a private helicopter.

Even if you added up the lengthy repair bill, broken bones, the missing couple, and 15 chimpanzees on the loose, I still say that was one heck of a bar mitzvah.

“These numbers aren’t adding up”, Stephen hissed, “You truly are useless”. He was talking to Bozer, who should have been hurt by that, but he’s just a dog who doesn’t know what’s going on but is just happy to participate.

Which One to Use: Ad or Add?

They sound exactly the same and are spelled almost exactly the same as well, so which one should you use? Well, in general, when people write, they usually want to say the word ‘add’. But if you need help, always remember:

Ad, with one D: Advertisement

Add, with two D’s: Math or combining things.

As much as possible, always remember that, unless you’re talking about an advertisement, always add the extra D.

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