Easily Confused Words: Reserve vs. Reverse

Reserve and reverse 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 as the one you are typing. It’s trying to save you time, sometimes it does, but other times its suggestions couldn’t be more inappropriate.

Reserve is a verb. It means to save something for future use or reference,for example, a savings account. In the Wine and liquor industry, some distillers and Wine makers reserve certain years of their products so it can age more, and be sold at a higher price later on. Typically these products have “Reserve” or a similar word on the label to indicate this longer aging process.

Reserved, an adjective, is related to Reserve.

  • It can mean something set aside, or saved.
  • It can be used to describe someone who isn’t quick to act or express emotions, someone who thinks things through before making a move.

Reverse is a verb. It means to move backwards, like walking backwards, or driving a car backwards.

It can also mean changing direction, such as an opinion. Politicians are famous for reversing their position on an initiative if they aren’t getting support they want, or his/her voting base decreases based on their opinion.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Reese was a reserved woman most of her life, but all that changed when a nearby reservoir was being polluted by a big company in town. She felt compelled to speak up, and speak out. She refused to stand down, or reverse her position when the company reps tried to reason with her, and locals ridiculed her. 

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