Thursday, August 15, 2013

I’ve Found More Words that are Easy to Confuse

I love these posts. Mostly because they’re easy.

Yes, I actually saw these mixed up. No, I didn’t freak out and rip my computer in half. But it was close. It should be easy to tell them apart. After all, patients is the plural of patient while patience is a completely different thing. It is easy to think “patience” and replace it with the homophone, though.

Maybe/may be
I often confuse when it’s appropriate to use “may be” rather than “maybe”. It doesn’t help that they’re both related to probability. However, maybe is an adverb, so if I’m ever unsure which to use, I ask whether “possibly” would fit. “Maybe Sharknado is even worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space”. Possibly fits, so maybe is right. But switch two of those words around: “Sharknado maybe even worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space”. Nope. Possibly doesn’t fit, and it’s missing a verb. So that should be “may be”.

This one is at least easy to learn. Preposition is one thing and one thing only: a part of speech. Proposition is a proposal, an offer, a plan. They’re not true homophones, but they are only one letter off from each other. Just remember: propose, two o’s, unless you’re talking about grammar.

There is indeed a difference. Comic means funny because comedy was its aim (like telling a joke), but something that is comical is funny whether or not it was intended to be (like telling a joke so badly that it makes no sense and people laugh at the inanity). All comic things are comical, but not all comical things are comic.

More homophones of words that have nothing in common. Flare is fire, glowing, or expanding (like a skirt might flare out). Flair is more abstract. It’s a talent or a skill. To tell them apart, I always remember that flare is something that happens (a fire flares or a funnel flares at the end) and flair is not.


  1. You get bonus points today for using Sharknado in one of your examples.

  2. LOL. I just got my kids a grammar book, and the first thing my oldest had to do was flip to the section on commonly misused words. I don't think any of these were in there, but similar instances were. Awesome.

  3. I have a shameful homophone in House that I have marked to fix in the revised edition. It's one of those things where you see it misused so often that you do it without realizing it. Fortunately, it's so common only one person (that I know of) has caught the error.

  4. I've been reading too many self pubbed books lately. (Love the free, but some aren't even worth that.) I've seen many of these examples. I think my current pet peeve is breath/breathe.

  5. Goofs are easy to make, even for the grammar-conscious.
    Great post! :)

  6. Ah yes! There are so many of these and I keep seeing them in published books! The one that seems most common at the moment is chord/cord. If I see one more person writing 'it really struck a cord with me'..... Well, let's just say I won't be responsible for my actions.

  7. I don't think I would ever use the word flair in writing.


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