Easily Confused Words: Effluent vs. Influential

Effluent and Influential 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.

Effluent is an adjective. It describes water, a liquid, or semi-liquid substance flowing from a source. It can describe sewage flowing into a waterway.

Influential has multiple forms.

  • As an adjective. It describes someone who is trusted and has power over other’s tastes, decision-making, and life choices.
  • As a noun, it means a person who has this power, this sway, over others.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Inga got involved in local politics, seeking to be an influential leader on environmental issues. It wasn’t something she had ever thought of doing until the previous summer.  The previous July a local energy company discharged chemical and effluent waste into her town’s drinking water supply. If that wasn’t bad enough, it avoided taking any responsibility or cleaning it up for weeks. She felt compelled to get involved.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Effluent and Affluent.

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