Editing 101: Homophones and Other Words Often Confused

editing2While editing, we must take comfort in the fact none of us can know everything about language choices. I know the frustration. There is nothing worse than to reread a passage six months after its publication and to spot an error in usage. It is impossible to catch every mistake. The challenge is to learn enough to reach a point where we are comfortable with our language choices. That being said, …

Discreet is being careful or confidential in what one reveals, while discrete means not attached – to be separate or distinct.

Accept means to receive, while except means to exclude or to omit. Everyone except the Republican candidate has accepted the invitation for the debate.

Effect is a noun meaning “result.” Affect is a verb meaning “to influence.” Where the confusion comes is effect can also be a verb meaning “to cause.” (For editing purposes, I find it easier to avoid effect used as a verb, finding better suited synonyms.)

Altogether means wholly. All together means every person and thing at the same place.

Assent means to agree, while ascent is an upward motion.

Dispute means to oppose, doubt or question the truth of a situation, whereas disprove means to prove to be false or in error. There is a difference in disputing the politician’s words and disproving them.

When used as a noun, blond generally refers to males, while blonde refers to females. When used as an adjective, blond is used for both genders.

Acute means intense or of great or critical importance, while chronic means prolonged, recurring or continuing over an extended time period.

Use dissociate, not disassociate when describing what people do when they remove themselves from an affiliation.

Passable means able to be passed or crossed – also barely satisfactory in quality. Passible means capable of feeling or sensitive.images-1

Advice is a noun meaning a recommendation, while advise is a verb meaning to counsel.

Naval refers to military ships (i.e, navy), while navel is the “bellybutton.”

Adverse means unfavorable (as in adverse weather), while averse means opposed to or having a distaste for.

Torturous means extreme pain or punishment. Tortuous meaning full of curves and bends, twisting or winding (The road ran along a tortuous course.).

The palate is the roof of one’s mouth. A palette is the board upon which an artist places his paints. A pallet is a simple bed or mattress (customarily made of straw).

Bemuse means to confuse, to bewilder, or to become lost in thought; amuse means to entertain or to hold another’s attention.

Pique means to excite(as in interest), to stimulate or to wound one’s pride. Peek means to take a brief look, customarily through a small opening. Peak is the highest point of elevation.

This one is a bit harder for both words can mean “to take for granted.” However, assume means to adopt (as in manners or dress), to undertake a duty, to affect, or to pretend to have (as in assuming another’s identity). Meanwhile, presume means to accept something as true until proved otherwise or to take upon yourself without permission or through a dare (as in ‘How dare you presume to speak for me?’).

Antidote means a substance administered to counteract the effects of a drug, while anecdote is a brief recounting of an interesting event.

Each other is used when two people, places or things are involved. One another is used for three or more.

Farther refers to distance, while further to refer to degree or extent.

Fewer is used for things which can be counted; less for bulk or quantity.

Unaware means not conscious of, while unawares means unexpected, without warning.

Persecute means to harass, while prosecute means to bring legal action against.

Are there any particular words you find difficult? How about the words which drive you a bit batty? Add them below, and we can take a closer look next time.images




About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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4 Responses to Editing 101: Homophones and Other Words Often Confused

  1. carolcork says:

    Regina, I admit that It do get confused when it comes to affect/effect and advice/advise. I will keep your notes handy.

    • Having taught English for years, I have “learned” to make mistakes. Sometimes one reads something, which is incorrect, so often, he begins to think the mistake is the correct form. LOL!

  2. Lori Kemer says:

    You stated, “Each other is used when two people, places or things is involved. I may be wrong but I think the correct sentence structure should read “Each other is used when two people, places or things are involved”. When using plurals, I always thought we use the word are, rather than is.

    • You are correct, Lori. That is the thing with editing, no matter how often one reads through the piece, he reads what he “thinks” he has written, rather than what is actually on the page. Thanks for the input.

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