Words You Can’t Help But Mix Up: Confusables

Recently, on Instagram, I hosted a discussion on my stories about confusables. Confusables are words or phrases that are easily confused in meaning or application with other words. In short, we mix these words up and the meaning of our writing can be drastically altered as a result.

When I’m editing a book, I like to keep a list of confusables close by so I can check the usage is correct. When I mentioned this on Instagram, and asked if you’d be interested in me sharing my list, there was a resounding ‘yes’.

Below is a list of commonly confused words — you might like to bookmark this page, or share it with a writing buddy so you can refer back to this list, next time you find yourself looking for ways to polish your writing.

accept/except

affect/effect

ascent/assent

aid/aide

aural/oral

bait/bate

balmy/barmy

bare/bear

bazaar/bizarre

berth/birth

born/borne

bough/bow

brake/break

breech/breach

breath/breathe

broach/brooch

bye/buy/by

canvas/canvass

cereal/serial

censor/censure

climactic/climatic

coarse/course

complement/compliment

conscience/conscious

council/counsel

cue/queue

curb/kerb

currant/current

decent/descent

defuse/diffuse

desert/dessert

discreet/discrete

draft/draught

dual/duel

elicit/illicit

envelop/envelope

faun/fawn

flair/flare

flounder/founder

forbear/forebear

foreword/forward

freeze/frieze

gaff/gaffe

grisly/grizzly

hoard/horde

lay/lie

leach/leech

lightening/lightning

loath/loathe

loose/lose

meter/metre

palate/palette

past/passed

peak/peal/ peel

pedal/peddle

peek/pique/peak

peninsula/peninsular

phase/faze

pore/pour

practice/practise

prescribe/ proscribe

principal/principle

purposefully/purposely

rapt/wrapped/rapped

reign/rein

sheer/shear

sight/site

sooth/soothe

stationary/stationery

specific/pacific

there/their/they’re

timber/timbre

vain/vein

vial/vile

waive/wave

wear/ware/where

wreath/wreathe

yoke/yolk

What words do you commonly mix up?

If there are any words you think have been missed from this list, let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post so it can continue to be a comprehensive resource. Happy writing!

1 Comment

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks Steph, that’s an extensive list! Very helpful.

    Like

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