Easily Confused Words: Divot vs. Pivot

Divot and pivot are easily confused words. This is an instance where one letter makes all the difference.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Divot (pronounced “dih-vuh-tt”) is a noun. It’s a piece of turf that was dug out by a putter’s swinging golf club as it attempts to whack a golfball.

Pivot (pronounced “pih-vuh-tt”) is a verb. It means to change position or direction, often from a problem area to one with better circumstances and more positive outcomes.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Liv had originally dreamed of joining the LPGA, but her golf game wasn’t as strong as it needed to be at age 15. Her strokes left a lot of divots in the turf and her scores were too high. She decided to pivot to another sport, surfing.

Easily Confused Words: Advantages vs. Advantageous

Advantages and advantageous are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Advantages (pronounced add-van-tah-jehz”) is the plural form of the noun advantage. An advantage is a trait or event that is favorable or lucky to a particular person, type of person, or group of people. It can mean a benefit. It can mean a position of superiority when compared to others in a sport, skill or talent.

Advantageous (pronounced “add-van-tay-juss”) is an adjective. It describes situations, or circumstances, that favor one party over another, or others. For example: knowing someone who works at a company often proves advantageous when applying for a job there.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Ajwa Anjum , an economist with the Agility Institute, says that it’s an advantageous time to be looking for a new job.

“The economy is continuing to grow.  There are a number of advantages for hiring an apprentice or junior staffer and starting to train them to be leaders in advance of the older generation’s departure,” he says.

“So much knowledge is lost every time a person retires. It’s a common mistake: the company starts looking for a replacement in a job after the last person’s retirement has started, rather than planning years ahead for that inevitable event.”

Easily Confused Words: Brave vs. Breve

Brave and breve are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Breve (pronounced “br-ehv”) is a noun.

  • A mark indicating pronunciation of short vowel sounds.
  • It is a coffee drink featured steamed milk and half and half, an American variation of a latte.
  • A related word, brevity, is a talent for expressing oneself well without a lot of words.

Brave (pronounced “bray-v”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes someone confidence and calm in the face of adversity, high risk, or other stressful, threatening situations.
  • As a noun, it’s been used to refer to young male warriors in America’s indigenous tribes.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Bakhshish had been intimidated about ordering food and drinks in her new country. The language was still very new to her, and she feared getting the words all wrong. But one day, she felt brave. She marched down to the local coffeeshop and ordered a breve with a pain du chocolat. The barista understood her perfectly. 

Easily Confused Words: Slide vs. Sleight

Slide and sleight are easily confused words, especially as they come up in common sayings, pop songs, and other media.

Slide (pronounced “slye-d”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to move quickly across a slick surface, like an object on an icy surface or a waxy floor.
  • As a verb, it can also mean falling or dropping. Typically this describes numerical figures like prices, stocks, economic indicators, or a students’ grades in school.
  • As a noun, it means a playground fixture for children’s enjoyment. It’s a sharp incline with stairs at the back. Riders climb the stairs, then sit down to ride the slide.
  • As a noun, in film photography, slides are positive images on film that are developed in solution. Once dry, they are cut apart and framed so they can be viewed in a carousel. These are the precursor to today’s digital “slideshows.”
  • A slide rule is a manual tool used for calculating logarithms, trig, and high school level advanced math. The slide rule famously referenced in the Sam Cooke 1960s song, (What A) Wonderful World This Would Be.” The slide rule predates today’s graphing and advanced math TI calculators, and software that performs similar tasks.
  • Slide guitar involves wearing a sleeve over one or more fingers on the fretboard playing hand. The sleeve can be metal, glass, or ceramic. For lap style playing, the sleeve is held in the hand rather than worn.

Sleight (pronounced “slye-t”) is a noun. It means possessing skill and talent in an area, or craftiness and cunning in an area. Sometimes both talent and cunning exist at once. People with a skill want to show it off, and often, earn money by doing so.

Sleight is rarely used on its own in US English. Instead, it’s part of a phrase:

  • Sleight of hand means trickery, skill, or deftness in using one’s hands. Perhaps the most famous practitioners of sleight of hand are magicians and some street performers.

Figuratively speaking, the idiom “sleight of hand” can also mean being a tricky or deceitful person. This phrase is mentioned in U2’s 1987 song, “With or Without You,” a ballad about a tumultuous, on-again, off-again relationship.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Sluggo’s grades were beginning to slide as he became more and more obsessed with magic. He spent hours learning new tricks, and perfecting his sleight of hand. 

The post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Slight vs. Sleight 

Easily Confused Words: Sheer vs. Shear

Sheer and shear are easily confused words. They are also homophones, meaning they sound alike, but are spelled differently, and possess different meanings.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Sheer is an adjective.

  • It can mean something that is transparent or very close to transparent.
  • Figuratively, it can mean something clear-cut or transparent. For example, thinly disguised emotions.

Shear is a noun. It means a blade, a pair of scissors, or other mechanism used for cutting. A shear or Shears come in different sizes for different uses: shears for haircutting, shears for trimming plants, shears for cutting wires and heavy duty materials.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Shea was close to graduating the hair academy; she was full of sheer joy about the start of her career. For a gift, she received an engraved set of shears with the message, “To Shea, A Cut Above. Love, Mom.”

Easily Confused Words: Slight vs. Sleight

Slight and sleight are easily confused words. They are also homophones. Homophones are words that sound identical, but are spelled differently, and possess different meanings.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Slight (pronounced “sly-t”) has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes something rare, something unlikely, something minimal, or marginal chances of occurring. For example, in the summer, meteorologists mention a “slight chance of rain” on a daily basis.
  • As a past tense verb, “slighted” means when someone feels cheated, dissed, or ignored by someone else.

Sleight (pronounced “sly-t”) is a noun. It means skill, strategy, or cunning in a particular area. It’s not usually used on its own, but in the phrase “sleight of hand.” Sleight of hand is the skill, trickery, and dexterity demonstrated by magicians and some street performers.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Slade’s attempts at sleight of hand with cards was not enthralling the Fair’s audiences as he had hoped. His crowd numbers were slight, while other acts where packing them in to limited seating for every 15 minute show.

Easily Confused Words: Intentionally vs. Initially

Intentionally and Initially are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Intentionally is an adverb. It modifies a verb to indicate purpose, decision, or as the word shows, intent. In criminal justice, a big part of the case is proving that the accused committed the crime, and did so intentionally. They planned the crime, they didn’t just get angry and react violently.

Initially is an adverb. It modifies verb to indicate being first, being in a primary position, being the first things to do. For example, when you go to cook at home you initially gather your ingredients. For extra convenience, you could pre-measure them into small bowls so you can toss them, one by one, into your dish.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Ennis entered the dance. Initially, he was nervous about talking to anyone, or asking his female classmates to dance. But then his favorite song came on, and he suddenly felt emboldened. He intentionally strolled up to Stephanie, one of the most well-known girls in school. She was a girl who was always surrounded by friends and laughing. tonight was no exception. He asked her to dance. She smiled and said yes.