Easily Confused Words: Shoals vs. Shawls

Shoals and shawls 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.

Shoals is a plural noun. It means shallow spots of a sea, river, or body of water. It can also refer to a masses of sand that emerge during low tide in a body of water.

Shawls is a plural noun. It means a knitted or woven wrap or cape with a fastener at the neck worn for warmth. Shawls are mainly worn by women.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Shaundre was enjoying a picnic at the river with family. It had been years, and the adults were enjoying catching up. 

His little niece Jamela had wandered off. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a small figure standing on the shoals gradually lose its balance. He ran out to the water, scooped her up and brought her back to the picnic.

He wrapped towels around her shoulders like shawls. Then he sat down in front of her. “You can’t get in the water by yourself, Jamela. You’re still too small.” 


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