The confusing word pairs.

Writers and proofreaders consistently have problems with 25 word pairs. The pairs are words that sound similar, but have very different meanings. Learn the meanings of these words.

  1. accept - receive something, recognize a truth, or approve of something

    except - to leave out or exclude

  2. accessible - easily approached or attained

    assessable - capable of being evaluated

  3. adverse - harmful or unfavorable

    averse - opposed to, reluctant, distasteful

  4. affect - bring about a change

    effect - a result

    Note, "effect" can be used to mean "create a change." "This new rule is intended to effect a change."

  5. among - in the midst of several things

    between - comparison of two things; area separating two things

    Note, "amongst" is not acceptable in formal writing.

  6. appraise - determine the value of something

    apprise - inform

  7. assure - inform to remove doubt or concern

    ensure - guarantee

    insure - take out insurance or act as insurance (Use "ensure" unless you are describing an insurance arrangement.)

  8. bimonthly, biannually - every other, or every two months or years

    semimonthly, semiannually - twice a month, or twice a year

  9. censor - review something and remove the objectionable parts

    censure - find fault with, or blame

  10. common - belonging equally to everyone

    mutual - belonging to everyone equally

  11. compliment - express praise or admiration

    complement - complete, make a whole, make perfect

  12. compose - create or form something

    comprise - consist of, or made up of

  13. consecutive - following one after another without interruption

    successive - following one another in order, but not necessarily without interruption

  14. continual - happening often, usually in rapid succession

    continuous - occurring without stopping

  15. discreet - using good judgment in terms of conduct

    discrete - separate and distinct, or individual

  16. distinct - clearly notable, individual, discrete

    distinctive - distinguishing, unique

  17. eminent - prominent, distinguished in reputation

    imminent - about to occur, threatening, impending

  18. exceedingly - extremely, extraordinarily

    excessively - beyond what is reasonable

  19. fewer - used with countable items

    less - used with quantities

  20. forward - at, near, or toward the front

    foreword - the beginning of a book or report

  21. impediment - hindrance, slowing progress toward a goal

    obstacle - something that completely stands in the way of the goal

  22. imply - express indirectly or hint

    infer - conclude or deduce

  23. indexes - alphabetical listings of subjects

    indices - a scientific or technical listing, or statistics

  24. precede - come before in time, place, or rank

    proceed - advance or continue

  25. principal - foremost in importance, head of a school

    principle - standard, rule, or ethical code