Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 Days: Day 10 — When spell-check won't help.

Woohoo! A third of the way through our 31 days!

I will admit this 31 Days endeavor has turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. I figured by working with a subject I know and love, it would take me maybe 20 minutes a day to write a post, and—BAM—I'd be done. Piece of cake. However, I seem to have underestimated my own verbosity, which is really saying something.

Ha! Get it? Verbosity? Saying something? (I'm trying to get a grip. I haven't had nearly enough sleep lately, and the mystery illness is taking its toll.)

Where was I?


Today we're going to talk about pairs of easily confused words. There are hundreds of these pairs floating around—more now that we have the Internet—but we'll concentrate on just a few that I see regularly and that drive me particularly crazy. I'm sure you have your own favorites; feel free to leave them in the comments so we can all commiserate.

The problem with pairs of words like this is that, as a society, we've become very dependent on spell-check. And as long as these words are spelled correctly, spell-check won't flag them. It doesn't know which one you mean. That's up to you.

The three pairs that cause me the most eye-rolling, teeth-clenching, groaning grief are

bare/bear          ensure/insure          accept/except

So let's take them one at a time. I'll give only the definitions that pertain to our discussion; there are many more that are unrelated. (If you want to know more, feel free to read the dictionary. I've actually done that before, and you can't imagine how much stuff you learn. I also read style guides and laugh hilariously at them. So fun!) (Heh. ☺ Sorry.)

bare = unclothed; uncovered.
bear = support; allow oneself to be subjected to without complaint.

So if you write bare with me, I will answer with an emphatic No. It should be bear with me. And we don't bare one another's burdens; we bear them.

Also, barely means hardly. These mistakes are barely bearable.

ensure = to make sure; guarantee.
insure = to provide or obtain insurance for.

My daughter Leah once took a history class in college (one was enough). When she received the syllabus, she was horrified to read statements like "Insure papers are submitted through (website name)." and "This will insure you meet the deadline for submission."

An English teacher he was NOT. In both cases, the word should be ensure

Whenever you want to make sure something happens, you mean ensure. If you buy or sell a policy that protects against loss of an asset, you mean insure.

accept = to receive willingly.
except = with the exclusion or exception of.

This is a picture of a real sign in front of a real church near my home. It may be the saddest sign I've ever seen.

I'm hoping that's enough to show you the difference between accepts (which is what this sign should say, since Jesus willingly receives trade-ins) and excepts (which isn't even a usable form of the word that isn't the right one to use here. You're fired!)

So what about you? What are your favorite confused words?

Be thankful ~

*(All definitions taken from
*Thanks to my proofreader, Kelly, for catching my typo. :)


Janelle said...

Site/sight. Honestly.

Anonymous said...

Ah, wonderful lesson today. We've seen issues with the usage of 'barely' in my son's 3rd grade was corrected as 'bearly'. =)

My hubby and I had a little chuckle when a recent Sunday school teacher wrote, "Jesus was a profit", on his power point presentation multiple times. There's no spell check for profit or prophet either. =)

~Kelly said...

I am just being a smartie pants.
"since Jesus willing receives trade-ins." willing/willingly
Your proofreader might have missed one. :-)

Leah said...

Cite/sight/site. AUGH.