Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tips: When Words Go Wrong, Part 2

by editor Ann Leveille

Commonly confused or misspelled words. The first part of this list appeared on Sept. 5.

Faze/phase: To faze someone is to disturb them. A phase is a stage in a series or cycle.

Fiancé/fiancée: A man is a fiancé, a woman is a fiancée.

Fluorescent/florescent: The neon colors, or lights, are fluorescent. Florescent means the time and process of the budding and unfolding of blossoms.

Forego/forgo: To forego something is to be earlier in time (go before). To forgo something is to refrain from consuming it.

Further/farther: Further means a nonphysical movement—further in one’s training, for instance. To indicate that there is a lengthening of physical distance, you would use farther.

Home in/hone: To home in on something is to focus on it or to move toward a goal. (You can “home in” or “home in on” something.) To hone something is to sharpen its edge. (There is no such things as “hone in”.)

Imaging/imagining: If you’re imaging something you’re producing an image using a machine. If you’re imagining something then you’re creating a mental picture of it.

Imply/Infer: To imply something is to suggest indirectly. To infer something is to interpret it based on information.

Lay low/lie low. To lay low is to defeat someone (lay them low=knock them down). To lie low is to hide out when someone is looking for you.

Lead/led: You lead a person now. You led a person in the past.

Lightening/lightning: To lighten something is to make something weigh less. Lightning occurs during thunderstorms.

Peek/peak/pique: You peek through shutters to check outside, a mountain has a peak, and you can have a fit of pique when you’re annoyed.

Premier/Premiere: Premier means first or best in importance. A premiere is the opening night of a performance.

Principal/Principle: A principal is main or first. A principle is a rule or doctrine.

Prone/supine: Prone means lying face down (on your stomach). Supine means lying with your face up (on your back).

Rein/reign: Rein is used most often in phrases like “free rein” and “rein in”. To reign means to rule.

Rigid/Turgid/Tumid: Rigid means to be stiff, hard or strict. Turgid means swollen and distended. Tumid means swollen.

Shudder/Shutter: A person can shudder in disgust or horror. One hangs a shutter on a window.

Staunch/Stanch: Staunch means firm, steadfast, faithful. To stanch is to stop the flow of blood.

Taunt/Taut: You taunt someone when you call them names. One’s stomach is taut (tight, firm).

Tic/tick: Tic is a noun and refers to an involuntary muscle spasm. A tick is a light clicking noise, a mark made to check off items, or a bloodsucking insect. You can’t say “his jaw ticked” unless it’s somehow making a clicking noise.

Trois/trios: Trios means groups of three. When referring to a sexual act with three participants, it’s a menage a trois (from the French).

Vice/vise: A vice is a bad habit or sin. A vise is a clamping device or motion.

Vicious/viscous: To be vicious is to be evil, spiteful, malicious. To be viscous is to be thick and non-flowing.

Wrack/rack: Wrack is a noun, referring to wrecking and ruin. To strain or torment someone is to rack them (a verb).


Ruby Duvall said...

Gah, wrack/rack always gets me.

Great stuff!!! (Will keep these two posts and use 'em during pre-submission revisions and save y'all a headache!)

Anny Cook said...

Shutter/shudder is my personal pet peeve when reading. Makes me want to throw the book at the wall... Thanks for the excellent list.