Easily Confused Words: Recuse vs. Recluse

Recuse and recluse 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.

Recuse is a verb. it means to remove oneself from a situation or a position of authority, usually because there’s the possibility of bias. Often you hear it in legal circles, someone decides not to be the judge on a case because he/she knows someone involved in the case.

Recluse is a noun. It means to be someone who stays indoors at all times and is not social with anyone.

The following story uses both words correctly:

The Rietveld family scandal rocked their mid-size city’s usual calm. Corruption charges were filed against several high ranking political figures in the family. Lawyers and judges that were distant cousins had to recuse themselves from playing a role in the proceedings. Roderick Rietveld, the patriarch, was so despondent after learning of his children’s possible misdeeds while in office, he became a recluse.

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