Easily Confused Words: Course vs. Coarse

Course and coarse are homophones, and consequently, easily confused words. The spell-check application in word-processing software wouldn’t catch a slip-up with these words because they are both words that are spelled correctly.

Course is a noun, referring to a path or other track to be followed beginning to end. It also applies to classes a student takes at school or other training. A popular idiom, borrowed from golf, says ” <<something>> is par for the course;” this means that the subject is part of the process and to be expected, although it’s challenge and a problem for the person experiencing it.

Coarse is an adjective. It describes a rough, or rippled (not smooth) texture. For instance, naturally dark brown and black hair is very coarse compared to naturally blonde hair, which has fine, thin strands. Let’s just say I know coarse hair firsthand. In another example, burlap is a coarse fabric, especially compared to silk to satin.

In conclusion the following sentence uses both words correctly:

At cosmetology school, Velma enrolled in a course that focused on challenges with straight and coarse hair.


Easily Confused Words: Peak vs. Peek

Peak and peek are easily confused words and homophones. The spell-check function of many word-processing software programs wouldn’t catch a slip-up of these two words. They are both actual words, and if spelled correctly, spell-check would move on.

Peak is a noun. Most often, it’s used to describe the highest point of a mountain or other rock formation. But it’s also used to describe the highest point of other things. For instance, as a farmer’s crops reach their highest point of ripeness, they are said to be “at their peak.”. When fall foliage or spring flowers are in full bloom and virtually exploding with color, they too have reached their peak.

Peek is a verb. It refers to when someone is looking at something he or she probably shouldn’t be looking at, period. Taking a peek at Christmas or birthday gifts using the old peel up the taped corner, take a peek at the content, then paste the corner back down so no one suspects anything trick.

The following sentence uses both words correctly:

Farmer Macquarie was so excited about his summer crops that he peeked out the window every day to see if his peaches had reached their peak.

For a related post, see Easily Confused Words: Peeked and Piqued.

This is Not A Turing Test

In the first week of June, a computer allegedly duped enough people (33%) into thinking it was a real 13-year-old Ukrainian boy. Incidentally, the Guardian notes at the end of the story that humans are only accurately identified as humans 63.3% of the time. A popular sensationalist headline for this story is “Are We All Doomed Now?”

If we are all doomed, it’s not a machine’s fault, it’s our own. The machines are getting better, but it’s possible humans are also getting worse. It’s a strange switch to learn about computers imitating humans with greater skill as actual humans tune each other out. A person remains a human being throughout their life, but the less they want to deal with the feelings of themselves and other people, they lose more and more of their humanity.

When was the last time you felt you had a real honest, rewarding conversation with another human being? 




  • 2013’s Her
  • 2002’s S1m0ne
  • 2001’s A.I.
  • 1986’s Short Circuit
  • 1983’s War Games
  • 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Did I forget one?

Easily Confused Words: Vale vs. Veil vs. Vail vs. Avail

Vale, Veil, Vail are homophones and consequently, easily confused words. The spell-check feature in word processing software would not catch a slip-up of these words. As long as it’s a word and that word is spelled correctly, spell-check moves on.

Vale is a noun meaning a valley or other tract of land.

Veil is a noun, that means a piece of cloth hung over the head and face. For the wearer’s safety, many veils are made with semi-transparent materials like lace, chiffon, tulle, or a nylon blend. Another design option for visibility is a slit or screen positioned in front of the eyes.

Vail is a verb, meaning to lower, or to let sink. It has archaic uses referring to gratuity, tipping one’s hat, and even as an alternative spelling for veil. It may be, though, that vail is outdated in every tense. In my reading, I see vail’s opposite (a.k.a. “antonym”), “avail”, used far more frequently. Avail is a verb that means to profit or benefit. It also has a noun form, meaning the benefit or the advantage to be gained by one party in a given situation.

The following sentence uses all four words correctly:

On a windy vale in Birr, the bride’s heels vailed into the peat beneath her; she struggled to keep her veil in place, to no avail.

Easily Confused Words: Manner vs. Manor

Manner and Manor are homophones and easily confused words. Spell-check wouldn’t catch a slip-up between these two words. After all, both are actual words, and both are spelled correctly. Both words, coincidentally, are nouns.

“Manner” is a noun referring to the behavior and conduct of a person. When a person has good manners, he or she is considerate of other people, he or she communicates with grace and tact in any situation.

“Manor” is a noun meaning a large piece of property owned by a wealthy person. Typically a large house dominates the landscape of a manor. Manors date back to feudal times in Europe. Over here in the United States, old plantation properties could be called manors. When I was younger, I gave house tours on the Girl Scout Plantation (Richmond Plantation) at what we called “the Manor House.” [That property was auctioned off in the summer of 2013.]

In conclusion, here’s an example sentence using both words correctly:

“Mind your manners when visiting the manor.”