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Perspective or prospective?

20 Feb

Today’s troublesome pair is perspective and prospective. Why do I think these two get mixed up? Because they are longish words that are spelled very similarly!

The main meaning of perspective is the art of representing three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface to give an impression of objects’ relative distance and size (a classic example of this is painting a picture of a tiled floor; an example of using this for amusing means is found when you take a photo that you have the Pyramids in your hand, or similar) and by extension it means the appearance of objects with regard to their relative position and distance from the person viewing them. Other meanings, which you can see are linked to this idea, include a particular way of viewing things (“from the rioters’ perspective, they had every right to take the trainers”), and an understanding of the relative importance of things (“you need to keep a sense of perspective about what he has done: stealing a tube of Polos is not as bad as mass murder”).

Prospective, more simply, means likely or expected to happen or be in the future – “I’d like to welcome my prospective son-in-law into the family – he will marry my daughter in September”; “with my prospective earnings for 2012, I will be able to retire in 2050”.

“From Mrs Brown’s perspective, having a prospective neighbour who was good at picking locks was a godsend, as she was always losing her front door key.”

So the meanings should not be that easily mixed up; it just requires a moment of pause, perhaps, before writing down the particular word you choose.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

Tags: , , ,

4 responses to “Perspective or prospective?

  1. Kaitlin

    February 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

    “From Mrs Brown’s perspective, having a prospective neighbour who was good at picking locks was a godsend, as she was always losing her front door key.”

    I snorted. I love it. Great comparison, they’re easy to mix up, that’s for sure!

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      February 20, 2012 at 8:02 am

      Thank you – I do enjoy making up my examples and am glad when other people are amused or pleased by them!

      Like

       
      • Kaitlin

        February 20, 2012 at 8:07 am

        What’s your twitter account? It seems to be broken on the blog. I’m RTing this post so it’d be nice to @ you 🙂

        Like

         
  2. Liz at Libro

    February 20, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Thank you – it’s @LyzzyBee_Libro

    Like

     

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