Easily Confused Words: Matte vs. Matted

Matte and matted 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.

Matte (pronounced “meht”) is an adjective. It describes a surface that is colorful, but not shiny or glossy. For photos and artwork, it describes a dull finish as opposed to a shiny, smooth one.

Matted (pronounced “meh-tehd”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a past tense verb, it indicates hair, fur, or hairlike surfaces (like carpet) that has become a knotty, piled mess.
  • As an adjective, it describes any hair or fur that is tangled and messy.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Matilda was having a hectic morning. She was so busy dealing with her daughter’s matted hair before preschool, she had no time for her own usual routine. No curling iron today. All she could do was put her hair in a ponytail and apply some rosy matte lipstick.

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