Frequently Confused Words

A writer accesses the creative part of the brain while working. Learning styles expert Carolyn H. Hopper states, “The right side [of the brain] pays attention to coherence and meaning; that is, your right brain tells you if it feels right.” When a writer self-edits, another part of the brain is working. “It is the left brain that pays attention to mechanics such as spelling, agreement, and punctuation” (Hopper). In creative mode, a writer might overlook mechanical issues like homophone confusion. For example, he or she might use one of the following words when the other is appropriate:

accept/except

affect/effect

aisle/isle

climactic/climatic

discreet/discrete

hear/here

palate/palette

petal/pedal

pique/peak/peek

pour/pore

sheer/shear

shutter/shudder

soul/sole

to/too/two

then/than

threw/through

Have you ever sent an e-mail and realized only afterward that you’d written “I read it to” instead of “I read it too”? It happens to everyone, especially when we’re in a hurry and primarily focused on creating, sending, and moving on to the next task. One thing that can help is to simply be reminded of frequently confused words. The short list above is not exhaustive, which would be exhausting (we can hear that grown, er, groan), but it will help you make the appropriate choice next time you encounter these particular words. Go ahead and take another look and imprint these in your memory.

Hope this helps! Come back next month for more tips from the editors.

Reference

Carolyn H. Hopper, Practicing College Learning Strategies (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2010) 175.

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