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Misused homonyms, etc
things that get past a spell checker

 8:11 pm on Sep 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

I'm compiling a list of pitfall words in the English language -- and for some reason, copy on the web is rife with examples (not RIPE with examples). In most cases, a spell check won't catch a misuse. Even Word's grammar check can miss them, depending on the sentence.

Some of my pet peeves in business writing:

A moot point is one that is merely academic and not practical, or (less commonly today) one that is still open to discussion.
Something is mute if it makes no sound.

Take a different tack [take a different approach]
Use more tact [be diplomatic]

For all intents and purposes
NOT "For all intensive purposes." This phrase is a horrid cliche, IMO, but if we "must" use it, it should be used correctly.

The principal taught us many principles when he re-invested our retirement fund's principle.

Only "principal" is also used as an adjective: This is our principal goal.

The drug affected the patient.
The drug had several side effects.
We would like to effect a change.

We will accept most contributtions, except for illegally acquired funds.

Let's elicit confessions of illicit behavior.


My own writing suffers from these problems as well. So, I'm wondering about:

1. Other common examples
2. Any software or other work-flow methods devoted to catching these little corruptions. When they slip through they can really make a site sound illiterate.



 8:18 pm on Sep 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

Grammar check should catch these, but I think the most common I see are:

to, too, two

their, there, they're

your, you're


 8:18 pm on Sep 28, 2001 (gmt 0)


Commonly mis-typed as "lost leader"

A project or promotion that loses money in and of itself, but leads people to the primary product/service...
"The free web graphics site was a loss leader for the company's custom graphic design services."

Don't know if I got the origin of the phrase right, but the general meaning and correct spelling are all there.


 8:23 pm on Sep 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

rc - yes, and also: its, it's

mivox - GOOD ONE! It started in the supermarket business but as other businesses grabbed onto the concept it really got mangled!


 9:23 pm on Sep 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

closely related:

You can learn a bunch from this spoof site: Those Pesky Apostrophe's [spinnwebe.com] ...it makes me paranoid every time I surf through there.


 9:38 pm on Sep 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

I used to be SO proud of my mastery of the apostrophe... now I'm afraid "it's" is one of my big grammatical nemeses. Don't know why or when I started slipping.


 3:37 am on Sep 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Loose and lose. We turn something loose, or a horse gets loose, but we lose out or lose money.

>why or when I started slipping
mivox, I believe it can happen from reading email and board posts with common typos, from seeing the same thing repeatedly.


 9:39 am on Oct 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Tripped over two more this week:

Discreet = knows when to keep quiet
Discrete = not continuous

A paper begins with a Foreword
The opposite of backward is forward


 4:11 pm on Oct 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

bear [dictionary.com]
v. To hold up; support

bare [dictionary.com]
v. To uncover or reveal: bared their heads; baring secrets

Grin and bear it.


 6:18 pm on Oct 29, 2001 (gmt 0)

Sometimes, grinning and baring it is more fun tho'...


 9:16 pm on Nov 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

Have seen this one twice recently... ;)

Harked/Harking, Hawked/Hawking

You hawk your wares, but you hark to the sales pitch being loudly delivered by the guy in the next booth over, who's hawking your competitors wares...

All WebmasterWorld visitors should harken to our site TOS, which specifically prohibits them from hawking their own wares, or those of their affiliates...

Hawk [dictionary.com]
v. tr. To peddle (goods) aggressively, especially by calling out.

Hark [dictionary.com]
intr.v. [harked, hark·ing, harks] To listen attentively.


 11:33 pm on Nov 5, 2001 (gmt 0)


a callus is something you have (hard thick skin) and callous is something you are (insensitive).



 11:38 pm on Nov 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

I had no idea...

According to dictionary.com, callous can also mean "having calluses"... So callus could be a noun or verb, while callous can be an adjective or verb.

Usage Note: Do not confuse the adjective callous, as in "Years of dealing with criminals had left her callous," with the noun callus, as in "I have a callus on my thumb." Also, do not confuse the verb callous, which means “to make or become callous,” with the verb callus “to form or develop hardened tissue.”

I love this stuff. :)


 11:52 pm on Nov 5, 2001 (gmt 0)

An addition to the English language: Flammable

Once upon a way-back time, a substance which caught fire easily was...
INflammable = able to be inflamed.

Enough years of "creative vocabulary" on cautionary signs, and everyone somehow got the idea that flammable meant it COULD catch on fire, and inflammable meant it was fire resistant.

Now dictionaries list the two as synonyms.


 1:46 am on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

And let's not forget peak and pique. I'll let Mivox do the honors of providing definitions as she is much more thorough and easier on the eyes than I (I saw the picture you posted). :)



 2:01 am on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)


pi·qué [dictionary.com] n.
1. A tightly woven fabric with various raised patterns, produced especially by a double warp.
2. A state of vexation caused by a perceived slight or indignity; a feeling of wounded pride.

peak [dictionary.com] n.
1.A tapering, projecting point; a pointed extremity: the peak of a cap; the peak of a roof.
2. To become sickly, emaciated, or pale. (She looked a bit peaked after last night's party)

And, let's not forget...

peek [dictionary.com] n.
1. A brief or furtive look.


 5:01 am on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

There is also the verb form:

1) pique (one syllable) which means "provoke or arouse" as in "Those comments piqued my curiosity." This one gets mangled all the time as "peaked my curiosity", and that is just not right!


 6:59 am on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

looking through my notes ---

Commonly confused words

affect / effect
affect (verb) - when a person or a thing, does something that brings a change.
effect (noun) - the actual result of the change.

assure / ensure / insure
assure (verb) - to promise or try to persuade someone that something is true.
ensure (verb) - to make sure that something happens.
insure (verb) - money you pay so that if something bad happens, you get a sum of money back.

become / get
become (verb) and get both mean to change over time.
Get also means to obtain whereas become does not.

borrow / lend
borrow (verb) - when you ask someone to give you something for a period of time.
lend (verb) - when someone gives you something (for a period of time).

Also confused with loan, the actual thing or sum of money lent.

bring / take / fetch
bring (verb) - to personally convey something from there to here.
take (verb) - to personally something convey from here to there.
fetch (verb) - to go from here to there, and then personally convey something back here.

chance / opportunity
chance (noun) - something that might or might not happen.
opportunity (noun) - a situation where something good can happen.

economic / economical
economic (adj) - to describe the noun 'economy'.
economical (adj) - to describe something that saves you money.

fit / suit
fit (verb) - to be the right size.
suit (verb) - to look good on someone.

for / since
for - to show the period of time that something has continued (use with all tenses).
since - to show that something started at a point in time (such as a date) and has continued up to now (used with present perfect and past perfect tenses).

happen / occur
happen (verb) - when something takes place, especially if it's unplanned.
occur (verb) - when you suddenly think of something.

hire / rent
hire (verb) - to pay for something so that you can borrow it for a short time.
rent (verb) - to pay for something that you want to borrow for a longer time, usually property.
Also, we hire people, but never rent them!

if / when
if - introduces a possibility.
when - introduces a certainty.

infer / imply
infer (verb) - to think something is true, based on someone else's information.
imply (verb) - to suggest something, without saying it directly.
implication (noun) - something not said directly, also the resultand situationor position of an action or verbage.
implicit (adj) especially for criticism or threat - something that is not said directly.

journey / travel
journey (noun) - a particular occasion spent moving, especially if it takes a long time, or is far away, or if it happens regularly.
travel (uncountable noun) - a general word for moving.

lie / lie / lay / lay
lie (verb) - to recline (past tense is 'lay', present participle is 'lying').
- to say something which isn't true (past tense = lied)
lay (verb) - to put something down (past tense is laid, present participle is 'laying').
- what birds, reptiles, insects and only two mammals do with eggs.

look / watch
look (verb) - to see something.
watch (verb) - to pay attention to something.

personal / personnel
personal (adj) - something which relates only to you.
- something which you do not want to tell other people.
personnel (uncountable noun) - the people who work in a company.

raise / rise
raise (verb) - to make something higher, ie, outside intervention.
rise (verb) - when something gets higher on its own.

say / tell
say (verb) - to communicate words to someone.
tell (verb) - to pass on information.


Invisible snowman

 6:59 pm on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

I never noticed. haha I need to check that out.


 7:23 pm on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

I use short sentences to remember which is which, e.g.:

It's a rare dog that won't scratch its own fleas.

The man was hanged because he forgot where he had hung his coat.


 11:02 pm on Nov 6, 2001 (gmt 0)

My personal favorites are:

preventative instead of preventive


irregardless instead of regardless

very unique instead of unique

also ranks high


 2:36 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

Lawman, you did pique my curiosity so I peeked at Mivox's profile and saw that she lives in the land of peaks.

Now do you know what? I made a spelling mistake in the above sentence, and only fixed it because I proofread. ;)

Did anybody mention "no" vs "know"?

Tedster, "moot" vs "mute" is not only confused in writing. I had a colleague who would continually say "that's a mute point". Of course, I would cup my hand to my ear and listen and then say "yup, your're right."


 2:43 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

Clever tilt!

In case no one has done so already, let me welcome you to WebMasterWorld.


PS, stay away from the pinball machines!


 2:44 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

Speaking of proofreading, I said:
>yup, your're right

I guess if you don't know the difference between "your" and "you're" then if you combine the two maybe you'll get it right? ;)

This one is not exactly a misused homonym but: option vs choice.
If you need to decide between "A" and "B" you have two options but one choice.

Thanks for the welcome, Woz. I'd been lurking for a while. Looks like a good neighborhood. So, you remember pinball games too? ;)


 4:59 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

The one that I see most often (and which I never encountered in my pre-online days) is "Here, here" for "Hear, hear."


 5:55 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

"Phillipines"and other mispellings for this Asian country almost beats out "Philippines" on our search engine terms used by SE searchers. Thankfully, most SE's seem to return pages with the correct spelling for the incorrect spelling.

Remember all the US/UK variants too. globalization vs globalisation etc etc. ad nauseum. We add mispellings/alternative spellings to metatags but more for hope than any evidence that it helps. Even though we are a Malaysian site with English/Australian backgrounds, our style guide requires US spelling, mainly because it is thought it is better for search engines in delivering SE traffic to us.


 11:08 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

Hey chiyo:

Didn't you misspell misspellings? :)



 11:17 am on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

Hehe.. I'm the wurst spella without my spellchecker!


 5:36 pm on Nov 7, 2001 (gmt 0)


"I hung the picture yesterday."
"The man was tried and hanged." <-- *NOT* hung.

When you say "The man was hung yesterday" you're not talking about ropes.


If it is a living animal/ being, it 'sits'.
I watched the large Harley rider sit on the bench.

If it is not a living being it is SET.
I set the vase on the table.


 12:24 am on Nov 8, 2001 (gmt 0)

I find the English language a fascinating subject. (The easiest way to find out how much you don't know about it is to start teaching it!) There is a preliferation of sites about English and heaps of Ezines, all of which are fairly easy to find to the savvy searcher.

However, one that takes my fancy is the Majority English Dibul [bentarz.se], Majority English being defined as "the English of non-native speakers". I find it a very informative, funny, and stimulating ezine which I think would be very useful to Webmasters trying to fathom the intracacies of this mixed up language.

From the latest Dibul:-
Can you explain the difference between e-trade, e-business and e-commerce?

No. And I doubt if the company doing the e-whatever can either."

HANDHELD - A computer, PDA, telephone, camera, etc all in one but small
enough to hold in your hand. These devises are not fully developed yet and
it will be interesting to see if "handheld" becomes the term of choice."

Highly recommended by yours truly with the obligatory disclaimer of "no affiliation".


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