Easily Confused Words: Pubic vs. Public

Pubic and Public 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 also tries to anticipate what word you want based on the first few letters. But sharing letters doesn’t mean related words.

Pubic is an adjective. It describes the part of the human body where the legs meet and the reproductive organs are located. It also describes the hair growing in this part of the body. Typically the pubic area is blurred out when exposed on television, and if a person exposed their pubic areas outside of one’s own home, there are legal consequences in the US and many countries.

Public is an adjective. It describes areas where citizens gather or travel: streets, government buildings, schools, libraries, shopping malls. If a space is public, its access is typically without restriction or limits. Often access is free or the admission fee is the same for all persons who might desire entry.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Puya made 100 copies of her resume to send to Public Relations firms. Then she noticed her original copy read that she majored in “Pubic Relations.” Oh no! She had to start all over now.

UPDATE: Someone on twitter said they never saw these two confused for one another.

When you say the words aloud, one after the other, they are obviously very distinct, but the written words are another story. I shared the following link, and I’d heard about this being an easy mistake for Ad/PR majors at University of South Carolina.

It always pays too proofread, proofread, and proofread some more.


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