Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tips: When Words Go Wrong, Part 1

by editor Ann Leveille

We all know about homonyms, words that are spelled or sound the same as other words but have different meanings. Most writers take time to check for homonymous errors in their writing before submitting. But there are also words that are commonly misused or commonly misspelled, that authors might miss because they’re simply not looking for them.

So a list of such things might be helpful, we thought. Guides were consulted. Editors were polled. A list was compiled to help you rid your manuscript of words that might not quite be what you mean to say. I hope you find it helpful!

Accent/Accentuate: You can use a lamp as an accent piece in a home, but you decorate to accentuate, or draw attention to, a huge window with a great view.

Adrenalin/adrenaline: Adrenalin is actually the brand name of a drug, so when you’re talking about your hero’s rush of adrenaline, you need that final “e”.

Adverse/averse: Adverse means opposing, antagonistic, unfavorable. Averse means having a feeling of distaste or aversion, to be strongly disinclined.

Anymore/any more: Anymore is used when referring to time. Any more is used when referring to the quantity of something.

Aid/aide: Aid is help, and aide is an assistant or helper.

Areola/Aureola: An areola is the dark area around a nipple. An aureola is a halo, especially surrounding a religious figure.

Breach/breech: A breach is a failure to follow a rule, or a hole made in a line of defense. Babies are occasionally breech (born butt first), and men wore breeches (covering their butts).

Callous/callus: A callous person is emotionally insensitive. Some people will develop a callus on their hands or feet from repetitive labor, or even from spending a lot of time barefoot.

Capital/capitol: The capital is the seat of government, or it is your material wealth and assets. In some novels it also means first-rate, excellent. The capitol is the building where the legislature meets.

Cement/concrete: Cement is powdered lime and clay mixed with other elements, and it also means to bring together or bond something. Concrete is a hard building material made of sand and gravel mixed with cement, and also means real, actual.

Clench/clinch: You clench your teeth when you hold them tightly together. A clinch is two people holding each other around the body with one or both arms.

Complement/compliment/complimentary: If something complements, it means it fits and accentuates. You pay someone a compliment. Free items are complimentary.

Confidant/confidante/confident: If the person you can trust with your secrets is male, he’s a confidant; if it’s a woman, she’s a confidante. Confident means self-assured.

Crumple/crumble: You crumple paper or sheets, that is, you crush or wrinkle them. You crumble cookies, or buildings crumble—fall into small pieces.

Deprecate/Depreciate: To deprecate is to express disapproval of or protest against. To depreciate something is to belittle it or lower it in value.

Discrete/discreet: Discrete means a separate part, or entity. If you’re being prudent, careful, modest and restrained, you’re being discreet.
Part 2, lots more misused words, will appear on Sept. 12.


Rhea Rhodan said...

I often see the phrase "reign in" as in controlling one's feelings, reactions, etc.. I think it should be "rein in," as one reins in a horse. What do the experts say?

Ruby Duvall said...

I sometimes mix up clamber and clamor. :p Great list!

ECPI Editors said...

Yep, you are right, Rhea. That usage should be "rein in".