Easily Confused Words: Knell vs. Knoll

Knell and knoll 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.

Knell (pronounced “nehll”) is a noun. It means the low, slow ringing of a large bell. Typically knells are rung after a funeral or other somber, reflective occasions.

Knoll (pronounced “nohll”) is a noun. It means a low sloping area of ground, like a small hill. Perhaps the most famous knoll in the US is the Grassy Knoll of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. President John F. Kennedy was shot during a November 1963 motorcade. Ultimately Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination. Oswald, a communist sympathizer, was on the sixth floor of a book depository looking down on the motorcade route and using a rifle to fire shots. However, a lot of people have theories and questions about Oswald being the actual killer, or the only assassin involved. Witnesses and a second possible assassin were believed to be located on the Grassy Knoll.

Abraham Zapruder‘s film of the parade and the assassination is a major source of information about that day’s events. A bystander who had brought his home video camera to record a historic Presidential visit, Zapruder became an accidental citizen journalist and overnight celebrity once the assassination had occurred. Click his name to learn more.

The following story uses both words correctly:

On a cold, wet winter day, Knox was a pallbearer at his grandmother’s funeral. It was very hard to maintain his composure as he passed the red puffy faces of the crowd and the bells let out mournful knells overhead. It was a long drive to the graveyard. No one spoke, and the men remained stoic.

As he and the other pallbearers climbed the steep knoll to the gravesite, he had to emotionally distance himself from the moment and focus on keeping his balance.


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