Easily Confused Words: Protectants vs. Protestants

Protectants and Protestants are easily confused words. This is one of those situations where just one letter makes all the difference.

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.

Protectants (pronounced “pro-tech-tuhnts”) is a plural noun. It means a substance sprayed or rubbed onto a surface as a preservative. For example, sunscreen is a skin protectant.

Protestants (pronounced “prah-test-tunts”) is a plural proper noun. It’s a collective term used to describe Christian religions that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church (aka “The Church”) in the 1500s-1600s. These religions emphasize reliance on the Bible, Baptist, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Episcopalianism, Methodism are all examples of Protestant religions.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Pruitt owned a detailing and auto body shop in Proctorville, North Carolina. He happily accommodated his clients with their car’s paint jobs. He applied protectants as needed to preserve those cars.

Being a devout Protestant, he was not open on Sundays; however, he or his staff would help someone stranded in an emergency if needed.

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