Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Few More Confusables

Ready for some more commonly misused words? These are confusibles I've come across in my reading over the last month.

1. Prone/Supine: Someone lying prone is on his/her stomach; lying flat on the back is supine.
2. Ally/Alley: An ally is a friend; a crime victim runs down a dark alley.
3. That/Who: If you're referring to a human, use "who." He's the guy who fixed my car. Inanimate objects, use "that." The car that hit him was parked across the street.
4. Loath/Loathe: That pesky "e" gets writers into a lot of trouble. Just like breath/breathe, the verb form of this word ends in "e." I loathe a man with dirty fingernails. I'm loath to get involved in political discussions.
5. Desert/Dessert: The sweet you enjoy after dinner is dessert. A camel walks across the desert and, according to that song by Journey, "True love won't desert you."
6. Broach/Brooch: To broach is to gently introduce: Jenny hesitated to broach the subject of the wedding. A brooch is a pin.
7. Wave/Waive: Wave goodbye and waves crash on the shore. The accused waives his right to counsel.
8. Council/Counsel: A council is a group of individuals. Good advice is counsel.
9. Feet/Fete/Feat: We put shoes on our feet. The shoes should be fabulous if we're on our way to a fete or party. When we're broke, denying ourselves fabulous shoes often requires a great feat of discipline.
10. Brakes/Breaks: Slam on the brakes to stop your car. Please don't slam on the breaks (which I see waaaay too often in manuscripts!)
11. Sight/Site/Cite: Sight pertains to vision. A site is a location, such as a construction site or even a website. Cite is to quote from or refer to.
12. Chord/Cord: His anger struck a chord, not a cord.
13. Forth/Fourth/Forty: The Fourth of July has the number four right in it, but forty does not! (Tricky, I know)

This is why a writer needs an editor, to catch these tricky word forms. You may even know the correct word, but after reviewing your work too many times, your eyes will automatically insert the correction without your noticing.

For information on rates and editing I provide, please email me at

1 comment:

  1. Excellent list, Gina! A handy list to keep next to the computer. As someone who took shorthand using the speedwriting system, that is jotting down the phonetic spelling of words using letters and a few symbols, I'm guilty of making some of these mistakes.