Easily Confused Words: Arc vs. Ark

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

Arc has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it can mean a portion of the perimeter of a circle
  • As a noun, it can mean a uniformly curved line resembling a portion of the perimeter of a circle
  • As a noun, it can mean a story’s progression from the arrival of a conflict, to its crest, to its resolution. Many traditional big box office movies centering on just one hero introduce a problem in the first third, confront the problem in the middle third, and conclude the problem in the final third of the movie. TV, books, graphic novels have more time to share more content in an episodic or issue fashion, so their story arcs move more gradually over the course of multiple experiences.
  • It can be a French surname, as in Joan d’Arc, the Maid of Orleans.

Ark has multiple meanings, also all nouns.

  • As a noun, it can mean a chest or box, like the Ark of the Covenant.
  • As a noun, it can mean a boat or barge. It can also mean a rescue boat making repeat trips between a troubled vessel and the shore to save lives.
  • As a noun, it can mean a secure location, refuge or asylum.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Arcani had never seen rains and flooding like he did when he was fourteen. Able to set aside his own fear and anxiety, he crafted a makeshift ark of plastic jugs and boards. He helped his brothers and sisters on board, and steered them to higher ground.

It was a life-changing experience, and if a movie were ever made out of his life, Arcani felt the story arc would start with that flood. It made him realize his capabilities as a person. Later he would get into emergency response for a career. 


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