Commonly Confused Words #wwwblogs #IAmWriting #WritingTips

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When I’m editing I often find that the same errors come up time after time. One of the big problems that lots of writers have is homophones – words that sound the same but that have different meanings and (for the most part) spellings.

There are of course the obvious ones – they’re, their and there, for example, and to, too and two. But some less commonly used words can also cause problems. Here are a few examples that I’ve come across recently.

***Please note these apply to British English spellings though most (but not all) are relevant in US English too ***

Phase and faze

Phase – any stage in a series of events or the process of development

They moved to phase two of the building schedule.

Faze – to disturb or disconcert (someone)

His attitude didn’t faze me.

Draft and draught

Draft – a preliminary version of a document

I’m never going to finish the first draft of this novel.

Draught – a current of cool air in a confined space, or a single act of drinking

The old wooden window frames let in a cold draught.

He took a deep draught of ale from the tankard.

Taught, taut, tort and torte!

Taught – past and past participle of teach

I taught him a lesson he won’t forget!

Taut – stretched or pulled tight

The dress was taut over her stomach.

Tort – a wrongful act or infringement of a right leading to lawful liability

The lawyers have opposed tort reform measures.

Torte – a sweet cake or tart

I’d like a very big slice of that chocolate torte.

Loath and loathe

Loath – reluctant or unwilling

I’m loath to lend him the money.

Loathe – feel intense dislike for something or someone

I absolutely loathe marzipan.

Peak and pique

Peak – the highest point of a mountain (noun), a projecting pointed shape (noun), reach a highest point (verb), at the highest level (adjective).

He surveyed the view from the peak of the mountain.

Whisk the eggs into peaks.

The noise peaked as the crowd grew.

The dog was in peak condition.

Pique – a feeling of irritation (noun), arouse interest (verb), feel irritated or resentful (verb).

I smashed the glass in a fit of pique.

My curiosity was piqued.

She was piqued by his bad manners and attitude.

Any examples of words you mix up?

 

 

 

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38 comments

  1. As a reviewer, I want to wrap my arms around you and kiss you on both cheeks. My favorite (and by that I mean I loathe it!) error is phase and faze. I can’t tell you how many recent books blow that one, despite being “professionally” edited. I want to write back asking if their “phase” means their brain has turned to a different form of matter—goo, would be my guess.

    And of course, America comes along to further confuse some of these issues. (ie in the States, the draft can be an early attempt, a legal conscription, and yes—a waft of cool air.) Sorry about that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, Alison. It also made me chuckle! I remember including a word in one of my manuscripts that I’ve used for YEARS in conversation until my wonderful editor told me what it actually meant!!! Yep, forty plus years of embarrassment hit me all at once! I triple check everything now 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t most of these errors happen because we make mistakes in high volume typing, though, not because we don’t know the diff? I type desert and dessert the wrong way round practically every time, even though I know what they are – I sometimes even make stupid mistakes like sight and site. Right and write is another favourite. I think it’s because our brains are not fully in touch with our fingers at all times, not because we don’t have the basic knowledge? (That’s me doing the AQI thing like the under 30s!)

    On the other hand, I am sure there are some people who really shouldn’t be writing at all until they’ve sorted this out… but still are! And some ‘editors’ who shouldn’t call themselves such….!!!

    I never use grammar or spellcheck, I write too many words in colloquial dialect and it would underline far too much!! That which I get wrong I rely on Julia to put right. 690 errors in the last book (mostly missing words, missing full stops, lack of hyphenation and capitals in wrong places – we all have our pet things!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’d be surprised how many people really don’t know the difference. I’ve even had ‘discussions’ with clients who insist that they’re right! And unfortunately I’m seeing more and more in books I’m reading to review.
      When I’m writing, the whole thing is a mass of green and read squiggly lines, because I type really fast and don’t even think about spelling. But I’m really sad and actually really enjoy going back through and tidying it all up!

      Like

  4. Oh – got to tell you this one! Ages ago, on the first page of a book I found someone talking about ‘she wrote blah blah but in the proceeding chapter she’d written blah blah’. The writer was an online English teacher (teaching to foreigners). I pointed out to her that it should be ‘preceding’, and she said, no, it’s right, because proceeding means behind and going forward.

    So perhaps my original assessment was a little optimistic…!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I see some people making mistakes with even the most basic words. I know a lot of people that just don’t like to look up the meanings in a dictionary or thesaurus. When I’m confused about a word, I look it up and then check out the examples. Most of the time I don’t use spell-check because it tends to be incorrect in a lot of cases.

    Thanks for this post, Alison!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One often sees “sneak peak.” I think it happens because it seems logical to spell both words the same way — after all, they rhyme! And another one that bugs me every time I hear it — because it’s often misused by the media — is “hone in on” instead of “home in on.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A misuse that makes me miserable – but is now perfectly acceptable in America – is the use of ‘careen’ (cleaning a ship’s bottom) for ‘career’. I know this is not a homophone, but it has crept into use because it sounds like career. I still feel as though someone has dragged their nails down a blackboard when I read/hear this usage.

    Liked by 1 person

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