Common Words Often Misspelled, and Spellcheck Can’t Save You |

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Whether it’s writing for assignments, reports or blogs, it’s not uncommon for us to have the spellchecker to assist us. However, even a spellchecker won’t be able to save you from using the wrong word that sounds the same, but has a totally different meaning and spelling. Here are some commonly misused words:

Advice: guidance (noun)
Advise: give guidance (verb)

Bear: endure/carry the weight of (also the animal)
Bare: unconcealed, or to uncover

Break: to cause something to be broken (ie. break a cup, or break into a bank)
Brake: a thing that slows or hinders a process (ie. car brake)

Birth: giving birth to a baby or an idea
Berth: an amount of distance maintained for safety (ie. give something a wide berth)

Born: term for a baby who was just born
Borne: carried (ie. mosquito-borne disease)

Breath: air taken into or expelled from the lungs
Breadth: the measurement of width

Complement: completes something/adds features
Compliment: a nice thing to say

Discreet: intentionally unobtrusive or prudent (ie. he’s being discreet)
Discrete: consisting of distinct/unconnected elements (ie. containing discrete sections)

Effect: a change/an item (noun)
Affect: make a difference to (verb)

Ensure: to make certain
Insure: to protect against risk by paying an insurance company

Forgo: opt out/abstain
Forego: go before

Hung: past tense of hang (ie. a picture is hung)
Hanged: only used when referring to a person who is killed by being hung on a rope

Lightning: an electrostatic discharge (noun)
Lightening: make/become lighter in colour or weight (verb)

Peak: the top of something
Peek: a quick look at something

Peddle: to sell/promote
Pedal: a foot-operated lever (ie. on a bicycle)

Pore: be absorbed in reading or studying
Pour: to send liquid flowing (ie. from teapot to cup)

Stationary: not moving
Stationery: paper, pens, etc

Another issue tripping up a lot of people is the difference/preference between British English (which is what Singapore uses) and American English. The key is remembering that Americans like to keep it simple. For example:

Inquire/Enquire: In British English, “enquire” means ask, while “inquire” is more for formal investigations. In US English, “inquire” is preferred for all uses.

Practice/Practise: In British English, “practice” is way of doing something (noun), while “practise” means to do something in a certain way (ie. practising football). Americans use the “ce” ending for both verb and noun.

Licence/License: In British English, “licence” is a permit (noun, like the physical licence), while ‘license” is to permit (verb), as in “the licensing board”. Americans use “license” for both.