Confusing words and phrases make writing tough sometimes. Some words are confusing because they sound the same when you say them, but are spelled differently when you write them. These confusing words are called “homonyms”. For example, the words “to, two, too” sound identical, but each spelling has a different meaning. Other confusing words sound similar, but have completely different meanings: assure/ensure/insure. And lastly, you have to write those common phrases that can be confusing, such as: supposed to. When we say this phrase, it often sounds like “suppose to”. You can often sneak by your listeners by slurring these phrases, but you can’t fool your readers. You either spell the phrase correctly…or not.
By knowing which word to use or how to write a phrase correctly, you can help your readers understand your message easily and avoid misunderstandings. And, when you use words correctly, you present a more professional image. IWCC’s next three BLOGs will be a series on confusing words. We would like to confuse you in order to take the confusion out of some commonly misused words and phrases. In the first two BLOGS, we will explain the proper use of some commonly misused and confused words. In the third BLOG, we will give you an exercise so you can see what you have learned.
Below you will find four sets of homonyms…words that sound identical but are spelled differently and have different meanings. We have chosen examples that we see people regularly misuse during IWCC’s business writing workshops.
Use allot as a verb – it means to assign, allocate or distribute. Use a lot when talking about a piece of land, or as describer words to indicate a large quantity. Here is an example of how to use both words in a sentence:
“Kami asked me to allot more administrative responsibilities to the sales reps because we have added a lot of new customers to our database.”
Use principal as a noun when you mean a person, or as an adjective when you mean main or chief. When you are talking about a belief, moral standard of a governing law; use principle. Here is a quick tip – think of the principal - the person - as your “pal”. Here are some examples:
“The school principal led the meeting to discuss the principles of supply and demand with our principal shareholders.”
If you are trying to explain that something remained still or motionless, choose “ary” for stationary. Think about no “air” movement to remember the “a”. If you are talking about paper, choose “ery” for stationery. Here are both words used in a sentence:
“The employees remained stationary, not moving a muscle, as the President explained how the new company stationery supports their brand.”
When you want to show ownership or possession, use its. When you mean it is, then add the apostrophe - it’s. Remember, only use an apostrophe when you mean “it is”, it’s that simple. Here is a sentence using these words:
“The control panel is malfunctioning again. Its warning light continues to flash and it’s a definite hazard.”
Homonyms are easy when you speak, but confusing when you write. Remember in our third BLOG of this series, we’ll give you a review test…so until then; practice, practice, practice! Tune in on July 21 when we’ll throw more confusing words at you.