Easily Confused Words: Pact vs. Packed

Pact and packed are easily confused words. They are not homophones, but they are about as close as two words can get.

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. It doesn’t know 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 suggests what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions couldn’t be more off base and produces humorous results.

Pact is a noun. It means a promise, or an agreement between two or more parties.

Packed is a word in the past tense; it has two forms both relating to fullness or a capacity being reached:

  • Packed the verb means travel bags have been readied for a journey or a move.
  • Packed the adjective can describe volume within an object:
    • concerts have “packed houses,” meaning they can’t fit anymore people in the concert hall.
    • If brown sugar is packed, it means its tightly formed together to fill its container, as opposed to a loose, conical pile.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Patricia and Tony were notorious for missing their plane flights. They made a pact to have their bags packed the night before, and to arrive at the airport hours before takeoff.

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