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Grammar Police Monday - Commonly Confused Words

Are we identical? Look closely...

In the English language, there are many pairs of words that sound alike and are spelled almost alike, yet have entirely different meanings. Consequently, it's easy to write the wrong one and not realize it. To compound this problem, word processors do not recognize it as a misspelling and may not flag an incorrect usage as a mistake.

Let me give you some examples:
altar (a sacred table in a church) vs. alter ( which means to change)
born (to start life) vs. borne (to carry)
and... compliment (an admiring remark) vs. complement (an addition that improves something)

What a difference a letter makes!

Here are a few more:
accept / except...affect / effect...coarse / course...discreet / discrete...
pour / pore...past / / sight...and the list goes on.

What do you do? Well, making yourself aware of them by reading through lists of these pairs can help. Keeping a dictionary (like open in your browser so you can easily check questionable words as you write is also a good idea. In the end, though, critique partners and proofreaders comprise the final net that catches our mistakes.Sometimes it just takes fresh eyes.

For lists to review, try these: Oxford's Commonly Confused Words, Notorious Confusables, and (my favorite) Common Errors in English Usage.

And for those of you wondering, the answer is no. The twins in the picture are not identical. Those are my boys at 4 months of age.


* bloggers - consider turning off word verification (aka 'Captcha') to make it easier for your visitors to comment. Here's a great tutorial video that will lead you through the whole thing. Besides grammar, it's my current crusade. 

What's Captcha? Not sure if you have it? You can read more about it here. :)


  1. What a pair of cuties! Sweet!

    My favorite sound-alike words are weather, whether, and wether. The shepherd didn't know whether she should wether the lamb in such weather. :)

    1. Thanks. Unfortunately, they grow up. Ha! :P

      Oo, yeah. Weather/ whether/ wether (the last one's a new word for me - had to look that up) is another toughie. I'll be covering a few specific homophones next week. :)

  2. Gah! That picture is so stinkin' cute. :D

  3. Homophones are seriously out to get me. I know the words and how they work, but my brain sometimes picks the wrong one while I'm typing. I don't see until much later and sometimes I need a fresh pair of eyes to find it.

  4. That photo of your boys is so SO cute! Makes me want to scoop them up and carry them around all day long. Though I'm guessing my arms may get a wee bit tired after a while... (:

    As for homophones...grrrr. There are some I'm always getting confused and I have to double check all the time!

    1. Thanks. :) You would get tired if you tried to carry them. They're much older now, and nearly as tall as I am. LOL :D Yup. Homophones can be a pain. I'll be singling out a few next week. ;)

  5. Melissa, what cutie pies!

    I have paternal twin boys too, though mine look way different than yours. :-)

    I get past/passed wrong almost every single time, no matter how much thought I put into it. Now, I just go with the opposite of my first thought. Good thing I have an English teacher for a crit partner. :-)

    1. LOL - thanks. I bet yours are adorable. :)
      I'm glad I have an English teacher for a mom. ;)


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