Thursday, March 6, 2008

Common Confusibles/Memory Mnemonics

Use little tricks to keep these words straight.

1. advice (n. opinion or counsel) / advise (v. to offer advice)
Be wise when you advise.

2. aid (v. or n. help) / aide (n. an assistant or helper)
An aide is by your side.

3. beach / beech
A beach is by the sea. A beech is a tree.

4. breath (n.) / breathe (v.)
Breathe with ease.

5. capital (city that is the seat of government; material wealth, assets; first and foremost; first-rate, excellent) / capitol (building where the legislature meets)
Cash is a form of capital. The capitol building has a dome.

6. cavalcade (ceremonial procession) / cavalry (mounted troops) / Calvary (hill outside Jerusalem; a great ordeal)
The cavalry were valiant.

7. coarse / course
We’ve lost our course.

8. compliment (praise, congratulation) / complement (complete or make up the whole)
A complement completes. I like compliments.

9. desert (dry sandy place) / dessert (yummy food at end of meal)
The desert is sand. A just desert is what you deserve. Strawberry shortcake is dessert.

10. discreet (prudent, careful; modest and restrained [noun is ‘discretion’]) / discrete (separate and distinct)
The ‘t’ separates the ‘ee’s.

11. passed / past (no longer current, gone by, over)
The ass passed me. Last year is in the past.

12. principal (main or first) / principle (basic rule or doctrine)
The principal is your pal. A principle is a rule.

13. stationary (unmoving) / stationery (writing paper)
A stationary object stands still. Stationery is paper.


J L said...

Here's another one that often trips up people:

affect/effect (influence/cause a result/end result/)

This one's a triple whammy because 'effect' can be a noun and a verb.

Cold weather affects me.

To effect a change in comfort, I go inside.

The resulting effect is warmth from hot chocolate.

Not a very good mnemonic, I'm afraid. I seldom see 'effect' used as a verb much any more. It's a more formal use of the word. But I often see 'affect/effect' misused.

N.J.Walters said...

It's amazing how many times I have to stop and think about some of these words no matter how many times I use them. :-)

Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

I love tips and tricks to remember grammar. Makes it so much fun!

Anonymous said...

The two that I always have to stop and think about are:

1. practice/practise (although I'm not sure if US spelling negates this issue, actually!)


2. rein/reign.
With this one I have *such* a mental block, but it only works one way. If I'm writing about a king's rule, I always get it right. When I'm writing about horses, I always get it wrong. No idea why. Obviously my parents' fault because they never bought me a pony when I was a child LOL.

Anonymous said...

Another one that I see a LOT, even occasionally in some published books:


You lose (verb) an item. The waistband on a skirt is loose (adjective).