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Conquering Confusing Words
The misuse of similar sounding words with totally different meanings has often been referred to as a "Bunkerism," from the old "All In The Family" sitcom character, Archie Bunker. You may remember Archie. He was a common man with delusions of grandeur, who tossed around ten-dollar words like he knew what they meant while everyone around him cringed at his mistakes. We all laughed at Archie, but sadly, there are many writers who unsuspectingly use the wrong word in their writing, just as Archie did in his speech. And just as Archie was unaware of his blunders, so are these poor writers. Fortunately, with some study and a good dictionary, these same writers don't have to share Archie's misfortune of appearing ignorant. Read and study the list of words below with their meanings. Although certainly not all inclusive, this list will provide a good beginning in your continuing education of proper word usage and meaning.

accept - to receive
except - other than

adapt - to adjust
adept - skilled
adopt - to take as one's own

affect - to have influence on
effect - result

all ready - prepared
already - by this time

all right - satisfactory, very well
alright - grammatically incorrect

all together - everyone in a group
altogether - wholly

allude - to refer to
elude - to evade or escape

allusion - indirect reference
illusion - erroneous belief or perception

all ways - by all methods
always - at all times, forever

annual - yearly
annul - to void

any one - any one person, followed by "of"
anyone - anybody, any person at all

any way - any method
anyway - in any case
anyways - grammatically incorrect

appraise - to estimate
apprise - to tell or to inform

ascent - a movement up
assent - agreement

assistance - aid
assistants - helpers

assure - to guarantee
ensure - to make sure
insure - to protect against loss

bare - unclothed
bear - to carry, or an animal

beside - by the side of
besides - in addition to

biannual - occurring twice a year
biennial - occurring once every two years

biweekly - occurring once every two weeks
semiweekly - occurring twice a week

board - a plane of wood
bored - uninterested

born - brought into life
borne - carried

brake - stop
break - smash

buy - purchase
by - next to
bye - good-bye

capital - the seat of government
capitol - the building where a legislature meets

cite - to quote an authority
sight - the ability to see site - a place

compliment - an expression of praise, admiration, or congratulation; a formal act of civility, courtesy or respect
complement - something that completes or makes up a whole; either of two parts which mutually complete or enhance each other

continual - occurring regularly
continuous - without interruption

cooperation - working together
corporation - a type of business organization

correspondence - written communications
correspondents - people who write

credible - believable
creditable - worthy of praise

desert - to abandon
dessert - after-dinner course

device - an invention
devise - to invent or plot

discreet - reserved; respectful
discrete - individual or distinct

elicit - to bring out
illicit - illegal

every one - each person; always followed by "of"
everyone - everybody; every person in a group

fair - average; lovely
fare - a fee for transportation

farther - actual or literal distance
further - additional

forth - forward
fourth - after "third"

forward - toward the front; ahead
foreword - preface

gorilla - a large primate
guerrilla - a kind of soldier

hear - to perceive by ear
here - in this place

heard - past tense of "hear"
herd - a group of animals

hole - an opening
whole - complete

its - possessive of "it"
it's - contraction of "it is"

later - after the usual or proper time
latter - more recent

lead - heavy metal
led - past tense of "lead"

lessen - to make less
lesson - something learned

loan - (noun) a transaction involving the temporary transfer of something
lend - (verb) to temporarily transfer something

may be - verb form
maybe - perhaps

meat - flesh meet - encounter
mete - to allot; distribute

no - the opposite of "yes"
know - to be certain

overdo - to carry too far
overdue - past due

passed - past tense of "pass"
past - after; a time gone by

patience - forbearance
patients - persons under medical care

peace - the absence of war
piece - a portion of something

plain - clear
plane - a carpenter's tool; or an airborne vehicle

presence - the state of being at hand
presents - gifts

principal - most important; the head of a school; the amount borrowed in a loan
principle - basic truth or law

quiet - no noise
quite - entirely or actually

rain - precipitation reign - to rule
rein - strap for controlling an animal
reign - to rule (The phrase is "free rein," not "free reign.")

raise - to build up
raze - to tear down

reality - that which exists
realty - real estate

residence - a house
residents - people who reside in a residence

respectfully - in a courteous manner
respectively - in the order mentioned

right - correct
rite - a religious ceremony
write - to make letters

road - surface for driving
rode - past tense of "ride"

sale - with "for," offering products for purchase; with "on," special pricing
sail - part of a ship or boat
sell - to exchange for money
cell - a small room

scene - where an action occurs
seen - past participle of "see"

sight - something seen
site - a place, including a location in cyberspace

someone - somebody
some one - some person; always followed by "of"

some time - a period of time
sometime - at some unspecified time

stationary - unmoving
stationery - writing paper

statue - a carved or molded figure
stature - height; status
statute - law

straight - unbending
strait - water passageway

tenant - one who rents property
tenet - a principle; a belief

their - possessive of "they"
there - opposite of "here"
they're - contraction of "they" and "are"

to - toward
too - also
two - the number that follows one

waist - the middle of the body
waste - discarded material

waiver - the giving up of a right or claim
waver - to show indecision

weak - not strong
week - Sunday through Saturday

which - one of a group
witch - a sorcerer

who's - contraction of "who" and "is"
whose - possessive of "who"

your - possessive form of "you"
you're - contraction of "you are"

Good luck and good learning! If you have suggestions for additional words to be added to a possible later edition of "Conquering Confusing Words," please email me at or call 865-609-0843.

All rules of grammar are taken from The Little, Brown Handbook, Fourth Edition, by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron, © 1989, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., USA.

Copyright © 1999-2000 Darlene Bishop. All rights reserved 
worldwide. Email author for reprint permission.

About The Author 
Darlene Bishop is a professional with over 16 years experience writing and editing ezines and newsletters, press releases, website content, sales letters, ads and much more, and is the author of numerous articles on a variety of topics.

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