Which pairs of words need clarifying?

11 May

I’m going to do a series of short posts, possibly daily, clarifying tricky pairs of words.

For example:

affect – effect
practise – practice
fewer – less
compliment – complement

I need loads of them – please comment with your favourite / least favourite / personally troublesome words and I’ll cover as many as I can and build up a nice resource for my readers!


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29 responses to “Which pairs of words need clarifying?

  1. Geoff Elliott-Howell

    May 11, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I’ve always had trouble with the whole affect – effect thing!


    • libroediting

      May 11, 2011 at 9:01 am

      Excellent – glad I’ll be covering that one, then!


  2. Jen

    May 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    There’s ‘stationery’ and ‘stationary’ as well …


    • libroediting

      May 11, 2011 at 9:01 am

      Jolly good! Keep them coming!


      • Katweeble

        May 11, 2011 at 7:57 pm

        I was going to suggest this one too


  3. Sparrowgrass

    May 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Principle – principal


    • libroediting

      May 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      Ah, yes, that’s a good one! Nearly a week’s worth now …


  4. Chrystyna

    May 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    licence & license – have to keep a postit on my dictionary to remind me!


  5. Julia

    May 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    relative and relation


  6. Julia

    May 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    query, inquiry and enquiry


    • Sarah

      May 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      these are ones I’m really unsure about! especially important as I work in customer services answering queries/inquiries/enquiries – arrggh!


  7. Julia

    May 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    comparative comparable


  8. Julia

    May 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    inflammable flammable


    • libroediting

      May 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      Goodness – thank you! Those will keep me going!


  9. Jen

    May 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Oh yes and what about uninterested/disinterested?


  10. Colleen

    May 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Not really like the others on your list but I never know the difference of when to use i.e. and e.g.


  11. Sandy Millin

    May 21, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Hi Liz,
    Great idea! I’ll promote some of these to my language teaching pals on Twitter 🙂 Just a note – you spelt compliment – complement the same way in your original post (says the English teacher!)
    Good luck!


    • libroediting

      May 21, 2011 at 10:35 am

      And so I did! Shows that even proof-readers need proof-readers! Thanks for promoting these posts; they should come out every Thursday or Friday till I’ve run out of ideas or suggestions!


  12. Amy

    May 25, 2011 at 12:50 am

    Perhaps too obvious, but what about Who and Whom? Very easy to sort out when to use one or the other, but I see and hear those two words used incorrectly so often – more in speech than writing, but way too often in writing.


    • libroediting

      May 25, 2011 at 2:29 am

      Thanks Amy – not too obvious at all, given all the other ones I’m doing!


  13. Julia

    May 25, 2011 at 7:28 am

    How about client and customer.


  14. Julia

    May 25, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Lineage and linage – just hadn’t realised the second one existed.


    • libroediting

      May 25, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Thanks for these two, Julia. I’ll do my best. Might have to do 2 a week at this rate!


  15. Peter

    June 4, 2011 at 7:15 am

    lie and lay are constantly confused by American speakers. And another triple: peek, peak, pique.


    • Liz at Libro

      June 4, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Thanks for these – I’ll cover both sets in time (I’ve got lots written up but am releasing them twice a week!) I’m mainly working with British English but making a note when the American is substantially different, e.g. with practice and practise.



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