Easily Confused Words: Prospective vs. Perspective

Perspective and prospective 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.

Prospective is an adjective. It describes people or events that are showing good signs of taking a specific action, or events that are very likely to happen.

A noun form, prospectus, is a document that anticipates an organization’s or a business’ future. Another noun form, prospector, is a word used for the people who sought gold in the California hills in 1849 and after.

Perspective is a noun. It means the physical viewpoint of a person (real or fictional.) It can also mean a point in space, and what the view is like from that point. For example, in paintings of a 3D object, what’s closest to the viewer looks really large, what’s furthest away looks smaller to the point of barely visible.

Figuratively speaking, perspective is the collective experiences of a person. Those experiences and how the person feels about those experiences tends to shape how he/she sees current events, current opportunities, and life in general. Everyone’s perspective is different.

When someone says he/she is offering”perspective,” he/she is offering a different viewpoint on an issue or an event, in order to encourage empathy, reassurance, forgiveness, or help achieve a better resolution.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Prospera was a mediator. In talking to prospective clients seeking resolution, she met with each side individually. After listening carefully, she responded by making the case for his/her perspective in order to let the person or organization know she understood where he/she was coming from. If he/she didn’t feel understood, she didn’t take the case, if he/she did feel understood, she took the case. Once she agreed to the case, the two parties agreed to come together at a future date, and at that time, she helped them achieve resolution that worked for both parties.


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