More tricky words and how to use them in your writing

Ever since I wrote about commonly misused words, I’ve been seeing tricky words misused everywhere!  Here are my additions to the original list.

Some of these tricky words were suggested to me and others have cropped up in a range of newspapers, online news sites, newsletters and social media. Many of these pairs of words have similar origins, and experts will no doubt disagree with me that they are truly different. I’ve chosen them as I believe the usage suggested here is the clearest, simplest way to convey meaning.

Man with frustrated expression on his face holds his hands to his head.

Borne is the past participle of bear, while born refers to coming to be.

The consequences were borne by the whole team.

The idea for the marketing campaign was born at the workshop.

A councillor is a member of a council, while a counsellor is someone who gives advice.

I made the complaint about potholes in my street to the local councillor

He was a wise counsellor, suggesting that I speak to the person who offended me.

If two or more things are not the same, they differ. They vary if they change or alter.

The t-shirts differ in that one is blue and one is white.

The colour of the sky varies according to the seasons.

Enormity refers to something that is horrifying or outrageous, while enormousness refers to something of a huge size.

The enormity of the effects of climate change cannot be understated.

Both the enormousness and the intense colour of the mountain made it unforgettable.

To insure means to protect against loss or damage, whereas to ensure means to guarantee an outcome.

You can insure your house against flooding.

Using a proofreader will ensure you pick up overlooked spelling mistakes.

The peak of a mountain is its highest point. To peek at something means to peep or look.

I often see sneak peak, which can be easy to miss. It should be sneak peek.

A regime is a system of rules or government, and is usually used negatively. A regimen is a structured plan for enhancing something.

The regime under Stalin was totalitarian.

Sticking to your diet and exercise regimen could allow you to live longer and feel better.

Single means one, while singular means extraordinary or unique.

I have a single apple left in my fruit bowl.

She had the singular experience of being given Taylor Swift’s 22 hat at the concert.

A sliver is a thin slice, whereas slither means to slide.

I’ll have just a sliver of cheese on my cracker.

The snake slithered down the tree and into the river.

To visit is to go to see a person or a place. A visitation is also a kind of visit, but has the connotation of a heavenly or godly occurrence.

I will visit you when I’m next in the area.

Some people saw Covid-19 as a visitation on humanity in response to our sinful behaviour.

Do you see other commonly misused words? Let me know if you’re being driven crazy.

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