Write Then! – Commonly Confused Words

Something I’ve noticed a lot of recently is people mixing up common words.  Now this doesn’t matter to me one bit when it’s in slang, a text message or on Facebook but when I see it in a professional document I can’t help but cringe. So let’s clear up some of the confusion.

First let’s learn some definitions:

Homonym – Words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings.

Homographs – Words that look the same but may/may not be spelled different. HomophonesWords that sound the same but may/may not be spelled different.

Some Common Homonyms:

Bore(d) and Board

  • Bore(d) –  To be fed-up, having nothing to do, uninterested. / Bore – to create this feeling in others
  • Bore(d) – To drill, dig, burrow,  a hole into. It looks and sounds exactly the same.
  • Board – A plank of piece of wood (as in cupboard and boardwalk)
  • Board – A committee or council of people in business.
  • Board – To go onto, as in to go aboard a ship or to board a vessel.


  • Waist – A part of the human body.
  • Waste – Trash (discarded products) / Use badly / Weaken (Sometimes slang for destroy).

Write/ Right / Rite / Wright

  • Write – As in to write a letter or article.
  • Right – Correct.
  •  Right – To have rights or have the right to something.
  • Right – The opposite of left (As a left/mixed-hander myself, it’s not nice that left-handed originally means wrong or sinister.
  • Rite – Used in ceremonies. I.e. A rite of passage.
  • Wright – Old word meaning `worker’. Mostly used in playwright.

When learning the correct usages of similar words it’s important to remember each one individually.

Tips for Getting it Right

  • Check words beginning with E / N like Ensure/Insure and Elicit and Illicit as these are often mixed up.
  • Check similar words ending in EPT or ECT like accept/except/affect/effect. They all have different meanings.
  • If there’s even one letter difference it may mean something completely different. I.e. Appraise/apprise, altar/alter, lose/loose etc
  • Watch out for I/E differences in the middle like compliment/complement.
  • Also look out for words that end in E like born/borne
  • Look out for words such as all together (meaning grouped together or all at once) and altogether(completely or wholly).
  • Check the UK/US spellings.
  • Find a good reference You can find these all over the web but it’s also good to have a book to hand with the differences. Of course a dictionary or thesaurus will always  but there’s a great chapter on this in `Woe is I, The Grammaphobe’s Guide To Better English in Plain English‘ by `Patricia T. O’Connor.’


Woe is I – Review with a good, clear chapter list.

Easily Confused Words – Oxford Dictionaries website.


One thought on “Write Then! – Commonly Confused Words

  1. Pingback: It’s Been Awhile…. ‘A While’… A Quick Reference of Confusing Words « Perfectly Prompted!

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