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Spelling – 27 August 2012

Unless you’re like me and passed every spelling test put in front of you with 100%, spelling is not your friend. In fact, spelling is quite blatantly your enemy. It’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.

Believe me, I know mistakes can happen too, regardless of how well you spell. Hell, in the book I’m editing now, which was released back in 2005 but I wrote back in 1999, I just found a spelling faux pas that horrified me. I’d apparently not been paying attention when I used the word “site” in place of “sight.” Yeah, now imagine the OMFG scream coming out of me and the horrified expression upon my face. It wasn’t pretty. I’m still kicking myself.

I received a list some time ago, and because I always confuse affect/effect, I thought I’d share the list with you here…and because the contract said nothing about sharing it on my blog, though I have made some major changes and additions to it.

It’s a list of commonly misspelled and misused words, and though it may be long, it is totally worth the copy/paste to a Word doc. Just sayin’. You may have to edit out the images, but they sure are cute.

Commonly Misspelled/Misused Words

Adrenalin (a brand name that is trademarked) / adrenaline (a spike of energy; the drug epinephrine)

adverse (adj, opposing, antagonistic, unfavorable) / averse (adj, having a feeling of distaste or aversion, strongly disinclined)

advice (n. opinion or counsel) / advise (v. to offer advice)

affect (v. to influence) / effect (n. result; less commonly, v. to bring about)  To affect something is to have an effect on it.

aid (v. or n. help) / aide (n. an assistant or helper)

aisle (passageway) / isle (island)

allude (refer to indirectly) / elude (avoid or escape)

altar (raised structure for gifts or sacrifices to a god, commonly used in witchcraft or pagan rituals) / alter (change)

among (two or more involved; also amongst) / between (only two people or things involved)

anxious (uneasy or apprehensive, worried) / eager (showing keen interest or intense desire or expectancy)

any more (used for quantity) / anymore (used for time)

areola (dark area around the nipple) [Plural is areolas.] / aureola (a halo, especially surrounding a religious figure)

assure (state with confidence; affirm; promise or convince) / ensure (bring about; guarantee; make certain) / insure (provide or obtain insurance, underwrite)

awhile (adv. for a short time; never preceded by a preposition) / a while (may be preceded by a preposition—for example, in a while).

bad (adj.) / badly (adv.) “Only the bad ice skaters performed badly.”

backward: adj. (“a backward glance”), never add ‘s’. adv. backward is preferred, but backwards will be acceptable to some publishers.

baited (v, to tease, to lure) / bated (adj, restrained or held back) If you had baited breath, you’d smell rather fishy.

basis (singular) / bases (plural)

beach (that place with sand) / beech

biceps: singular ONLY, even in plural form.

blonde (female) / blond (male). In reference to a mixed-sex group of people, blond.

boor (n. a rude, unrefined person) / bore (v. to weary by being dull; n, an uninteresting person, one who bores)

born (v. to have a child) / borne (v. to carry)

bosom (the chest; a person has one bosom, not two)

brake (something that slows or hinders) / break (damage)

breach (n. an opening or gap, an estrangement; v. to break through, to violate) / breech (n. the buttocks; the part of a gun behind the barrel)

breath (n.) / breathe (v.) You take a breath, or you breathe hard.

callous (emotionally hardened) / callus (hardened area on the skin) / calloused (adjective)

can (ability or capability) / may (permission) / might (possibility)

capital (city that is the seat of government; material wealth, assets; first and foremost; first-rate, excellent) / capitol (building where the legislature meets)

cavalcade (ceremonial procession) / cavalry (mounted troops) / Calvary (hill outside Jerusalem; a great ordeal)

cement (n. powdered lime and clay that is mixed with other elements to make concrete; v. to bring together or bond) / concrete (n. a hard building material made of sand and gravel mixed with cement; adj. real, actual)

chauffer (n. a table stove or small furnace; v. to heat or warm up) / chauffeur (hired driver for a private car)

cite (to quote; to summon before a court) /sight (vision) /site (location, like an archaeological dig)

clamor (make a persistent loud demand) / clamber (climb awkwardly)

clench (v. to interlock or set firmly together, such as to clench the teeth; to hold or grasp firmly) / clinch (n. or v., two people holding each other around the body with one or both arms)

coarse (rough, not refined) / course (a route or path)

compliment (praise, congratulation) / complement (complete or make up the whole).

conscience (n. a sense of right and wrong) / conscious (adj. awake; aware of oneself; intentional)

contagious (communicated or transferred by direct contact) / infectious (indirectly communicated, such as by water or air)

continence (self-restraint, moderation) / countenance (appearance, expression of the face)

conviction (belief or a judgment as guilty in court) / convection (transfer of heat through fluid)

crisis (singular) / crises (plural)

criteria (plural) / criterion (singular)

crumble (break into small bits) / crumple (crush out of shape)

crown (commonly worn by royalty) / crowd (a large gathering of people)

damn / damned – adj. (indicates anger at an object) / Damned – cursed, or destined to go to Hell (damned to hell, the damned, when speaking of vampires or the band, The Damned)

datum (singular) / data (plural)

defuse (v. to make harmless or less tense) / diffuse (adj. spread out, not concentrated; v. to scatter or spread widely)

deprecate (express disapproval of, protest against) / depreciate (belittle, lower in value)

desert (dry sandy place – y’know, where I live) / dessert (things like tiramisu and red velvet cake)

disburse (to pay out, expend) / disperse (to scatter, distribute widely, or drive off)

discreet (prudent, careful; modest and restrained [noun is ‘discretion’]) / discrete (separate and distinct)

do (perform) / due (payable, scheduled)

dominate (verb) / dominant (noun and adjective)

dos and don’ts (not “do’s and don’t’s”)

earth (dirt, the ground) / Earth (the planet) / earth (used in idiom)

easy (adj.) / easily (adv.) “It was an easy match, and Austin won easily.”

effect / affect: See ‘affect/effect’.

elusive (adj. tending to avoid or escape) / illusive (adj. unreal or misleading)

ensure / insure: See ‘assure/ensure/insure’

envelop (v.) (darkness falls around you, to be enveloped) / envelope (n.) (what you put a letter in)

exercise / exorcise (rid of demons)

fair (adj, adv. Without favoring one party. n. a carnival) / fare (an agenda, food or drink served, a fee charged for riding public transportation)

farther (implies physical distance; a more distant point) / further (advancement along a nonphysical dimension; to a greater extent or degree

faze (v. to disturb) “That didn’t faze me one bit.” / phase (n. a stage in a series or cycle)

feign (imitate or deceive) / feint (deceptive action or attack to draw attention away from real purpose)

fiancée (female) / fiancé (male)

fission (splitting apart) / fissure (narrow opening or crack) / frisson (shudder or thrill)

florescent (adj, referring to the state or period of flourishing) / fluorescent (adj, brilliantly colored and apparently giving off light)

flout (to scoff or scorn, to mock or treat contemptuously) / flaunt (to show off, to make an ostentatious display)

gauntlet (a glove) To throw down a gauntlet in challenge / gantlet (a test of endurance or ability to bear punishment or pain) What Xena went through at the end of that Hercules: Legendary Journeys episode that spawned her series. It’s a double line of warriors who attack and inflict pain on you as you run down the line.

geez / jeez: An exclamation.

god (any god in a pantheon) / God (Christian, the one god, always capitalized when used referencing God)

good (adj.) / well (adv.) “I did well on the exam and received a good grade for the class.”

gravely (in a grave or serious manner) / gravelly (unpleasantly harsh or grating in sound)

gray (American sp.) / grey (British sp.)

gripe, griping (complain) / grip, gripping (hold on to)

hair / hare (a rabbit)

hangar (an aircraft hangar) / hanger (a garment/clothes hanger)

hanged (a man is hanged) / hung (clothes are hung)

heal (medically mend) / heel (part of shoe)

“hear, hear” – when agreeing with something, you use “hear, hear” and not “here, here”. Also “hear ye, hear ye”.

hoard (n. or v., a hidden cache) / horde (n., a large crowd or swarm)

incredible (unbelievable) / incredulous (unbelieving, skeptical)

inquire (American) / enquire (British)

insight (capacity to discern the true nature) / incite (to provoke or urge on, such as incite a riot)

into / in to

it’s (contraction of ‘it is’) / its (possessive)

(I have no words for J and K, but if you can think of any, please leave them in the comments below)


labia (plural, the folds of a woman’s vulva) / labium (singular)

ladies’ man (not lady’s man)

lathe (shave wood) / lave (wash)

let’s (contraction of ‘let us’) / lets (allows)

lie low (hide out, keep a low profile)

lightening (growing less heavy or dark) / lightning (electric flashes in the sky)

loath (adj., unwilling or reluctant) / loathe (v. to abhor or despise)

loose (not secure) / lose (to misplace something) When you lose something, it is lost.

lusty (robust, hearty, vigorous) / lustful (full of sexual desire, or lecherous, or greedy)

material (n., the substance out of which something can be made; cloth; adj. relevant and consequential) / materiel (equipment and supplies of a military force or organization)

metal / mettle (true grit, nerve) / meddle (to interfere)

nauseous (makes one sick)/nauseated (feel sick).

naval (related to shipping) / navel (central point or middle; mark on abdomen where umbilical cord was attached)

nosy (as in ‘nosy neighbor’) Do not use “nosey”

nucleus (singular) / nuclei (plural)

okay  (not OK)

ox (singular) / oxen (plural)

pail (bucket) / pale (light in color)

palatable (acceptable to the taste or mind) / palpable (capable of being handled or felt; easily perceived or obvious)

passed / past (no longer current, gone by, over)

peak (the pointed summit, the point of greatest value or intensity) / peek (look quickly or furtively) / pique (n., vexation or resentment; v., to provoke or arouse)

peal (ringing of bells, loud burst of noise) / peel (n., the skin of fruits or vegetables; v., to strip away or pull off)

penned (enclosed by a fence) / pent (confined, repressed; usually used as pent-up)

populace (n., the general public, a population) / populous (adj., containing many people)

pour (v., cause to flow or run) / poor (n., people without wealth; adj., pitiful, unsatisfactory, or indicative of poverty) / pore (n., tiny hole; v., to direct one’s attention on something)

principal (main or first, capitalized for the Principal of a school) / principle (basic rule or doctrine)

prostrate (lying prone) / prostate (male gland)

prone (lying face downward) / supine (lying face upward)

quiet (silent) / quite

quiver (v. to shake or vibrate) / quaver (v. give off unsteady sounds, n. a tremulous sound)

real (adj.) / really (adv.) “I am really sure that this is a real diamond, not a fake.”

rein (“free rein”, “rein in”) / reign (to rule) / rain (water)

rigid (stiff, hard, strict) / turgid (swollen, distended) / tumid (swollen)

rogue (scamp) / rouge (blusher)

sac (scrotum) / sack (bag)

secede (to withdraw or break away) / succeed (achieve success)

semen (n. the male ejaculate) / sperm (n. the germ cells)

sheath (n) (or scabbard, where the sword goes) / sheathe (v) To sheathe the sword in the scabbard/sheath

Shockwave (computer plug-in/Java) / shock wave (physical disturbance or reaction)

shown (exhibited) / shone (to be shiny) The light shone through the window

shudder / shutter (window covering)

snug (adj., a tight fit) / snugly (adverb, fits tightly) / snuggly (adj., cuddly)

stared (to fixate with one’s eyes) / starred (marked with a star)

states / States: Lowercase unless referring to the whole of the United States.

stationary (unmoving) / stationery (writing paper)

staunch (firm, steadfast, faithful) / stanch (to stop the flow of blood)

stimulus (singular) / stimuli (plural)

sure (adj.) / surely (adv.) “This surely seems like a sure bet.”

tack / tact (considerate perception of what is appropriate) Trying a different tack is appropriate of changing direction

than (used to compare things) / then (sequences)

that (refers to things) / who (refers to persons)

that (restrictive clause, no commas used) / which (nonrestrictive clause, set off by commas)

their (belonging to them) / there (at that place) / they’re (contraction of ‘they are’)

tic (n. an involuntary repetitive muscle spasm) / tick (n. a light clicking noise; a mark made to check off items; a bloodsucking insect)

tiny (small) / tinny

toward / towards (preferred is toward)

trois (as in ménage à trois) / trios

try to / try and (try to is preferred, but try and may be an acceptable form if you’re consistent)

(no words for U either, so if you have one or two, leave it in the comments below)

vice (bad habit or sin) / vise (a clamping device or motion)

vicious (evil, spiteful, malicious) / viscous (thick, non-flowing)

wander (v. roam aimlessly; meander; to go astray) / wonder (v. to have curiosity or doubt) You do not wander about life unless you’re roaming aimlessly through it.

web or website (website is one word)

where (place) / were

wrack (n., wreckage, ruin) / rack (v., to strain or torture or torment)

wreak (v., to vent, to bring about, to inflict upon a person) To wreak havoc / reek (to give off fumes or an unpleasant odor)

woke / awoke

(no words for X, unless you have some. Place in comments below)

yin and yang, not ‘ying and yang’

you’re (contraction of ‘you are’) / your (possessive) This is your pencil, not mine.

(no words for Z, either)

This concludes today’s lesson. Spelling–be certain to not only use correct spelling, but the correct word in your writing.

Thank you to The Gashlycrumb Tinies for their participation.

By all means, add more words in the comments below if you don’t see them listed here. I’ll be updating it periodically.


One Look Dictionary Search – http://www.onelook.com

Merriam-Webster – http://www.m-w.com/

FreeDictionary.com – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

All Words (word search) – http://www.allwords.com

Dictionary.com (dictionary and grammar resources) – http://dictionary.reference.com/

Your Dictionary (word lookup) – http://www.yourdictionary.com/ahd/search
Also in multiple languages – http://www.yourdictionary.com

MSN Encarta (dictionary, thesaurus, translation, encyclopedia) – http://Encarta.msn.com

LookWAYup (word look-up, translation) – http://lookwayup.com/free/dictionary.htm

Word Spy – http://www.wordspy.com/

The Electric Eclectic – http://bloxword.ca/dictionaries.htm

Common errors in English usage – http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html

The Idiom Connection – http://www.idiomconnection.com/

Dictionary of English Idioms – http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/

Guide to Grammar and Writing (Capital Community College) – http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/

Lynch Guide to Grammar and Style – http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/index.html

Babelfish (translation for foreign words) – http://babelfish.altavista.com/

Free Translation – http://www.freetranslation.com/

US Military chain of command – http://www.candaceirvin.com/part3.html

Confusing Words – http://www.confusingwords.com/

Mythology, religion and folklore – http://www.pantheon.org/

History of words – http://www.etymonline.com/

Google – http://www.google.com

Religion Facts – http://www.religionfacts.com

Police and Fire ten-codes – http://www.bearcat1.com

Regional Vocabularies of American English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_Vocabularies_of_American_English

Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D.

2 thoughts on “Spelling – 27 August 2012”

  1. Great post, Jinxie! 🙂 I see a lot of these words mixed up in all sorts of books, even from big publishers, and it drives me crazy. Thanks for striking a blow for getting these right!


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