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Choosing the Right Word

How did he fair?
Let's take a new tact.
Did you fall pray to his charms?
Thank you for your patients.
Of all the gaul!

Often, in the heat of the moment, we use a word that sounds like the right word but isn't. This happens frequently when we are swiftly dashing out emails. But as Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." Avoid embarrassing yourself by reviewing these commonly misused sound-alikes.

aid/aide

Aid is a verb. Aide is a noun.

Can you aid the aide in feeding the patient?

aisle/isle/I'll

An aisle is a row.  And isle is an island. I'll is a contraction of I will.

I'll walk you down the aisle on the isle of Hawaii.

ark/arc

An ark is a kind of boat or protective container. An arc is something arched or curved.

The ark passed under the arc of the rainbow.

assistants/assistance

Assistants are people. Assistance is an action.

Can you lend some assistance to the assistants?

born/borne

Born means being the product of birth. Borne means carried or transmitted by.

The newly born child was borne by his father to the waiting room.

broach/brooch

Broach has many meanings; the most common is to bring up for discussion or to announce.  A brooch is an ornamental pin.

He was reluctant to broach the topic of who would inherit the diamond brooch.

canvass/canvas

Canvass refers to examine or conduct a survey. Canvas is a type of fabric.

They canvassed painters to see what kind of canvas they preferred.

cite/sight/site

Cite means to quote as an authority or example. Sight is vision. Site is a location.

He cited the time when he first caught sight of the site.

fare/fair

Fare as a verb means to get along. As a noun, fare is a fee. Fair means just or pretty.

How did you fare with the fair maiden?

gall/gaul

Gall is bitterness, rancor, or outrageous effrontery. Gaul is an archaic name of France.

Caesar had a lot of gall to conquer Gaul.

led/lead

Led is the past tense and past participle of to lead. Lead is a metal or the present tense of the verb to lead.

The geologist led them straight to the lead.

loathe/loath

To loathe means to despise. Loath, an adjective, means to be reluctant or disinclined.

I am loath to visit the people I loathe.

patience/patients

Patients are people. Patience is the quality of waiting calmly.

Please have more patience with the patients.

pray/prey

To pray means to beseech. Prey is quarry; as a verb, it means to hunt for prey.

The prey prays for deliverance.

review/revue

Review means to examine, study again, or critique. A revue is a musical show.

The critic reviewed the new revue.

tack/tact

Tack is an approach to a situation or the process of changing direction.  Tact is the ability to be sensitive and appropriate when speaking to others.

In the interests of tact, he decided to take a new tack.

their/there/they're

Their means belonging to them. There refers to a different place. They're is a contraction of they are.

They're at their usual table over there.

your/you're

Your means belonging to you. You're is a contraction of you are.Never write your welcome unless you are writing your welcome to us was much appreciated.

You're welcome to bring your laptop to the class.

©2012 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved

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  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
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