Easily Confused Words: Detour vs. Deter

Detour and deter 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.

Detour (pronounced “dee-too-urr”) is a noun. It means an alternate path offered to travelers because the original route is unavailable. Detours are a frequent part of highway construction. Drivers can keep moving on a new path to their destination as the work is completed on a major roadway they usually travel on.

Deter (pronounced “dey-turr”) is a verb. It means to attempt to block or thwart someone else from participating in an activity or taking a specific action.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Destry was determined to get to her interview on time. The detours all along on her anticipated route did not deter her from meeting her goal. Actually, she arrived 10 minutes early. 

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