Easily Confused Words: Persecute vs. Prosecute

Persecute and prosecute 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.

Persecute (pronounced “purr-sih-kewt”) is a verb. It means to punish severely, or to target someone (or a group) repeatedly with abuse.

Prosecute (pronounced “praw-sih-kewt”) is a verb.

  • It can mean bringing formal charges of lawbreaking to court. In trials, the prosecution is the accuser, and the defense is the one being accused.
  • It can also mean to enforce by legal process.
  • It can also mean taking a major effort from start to completion. (I don’t hear this use often.)

The following story uses both words correctly:

Priscilla wanted to create a hate crime law in her state; it didn’t currently have one. While harassment and assault were illegal in her state, but the motivations behind these crimes often went unexamined. The state didn’t prosecute perpetrators as harshly when it was assumed the crime was random, not premeditated.

Recently, Priscilla has seen too many minority groups being persecuted in her community. These persons often had little means for legal recourse. These people were being targeted too frequently in these events for it to be mere coincidence. These events did not receive the media’s attention or respect when they happened compared to more affluent people. Something had to be done.

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Easily Confused Words: Tensile vs. Tinsel

Tensile and tinsel 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.

Tensile (pronounced  “tihn-suhl”) is an adjective. It describes something with tension or capable of being pulled, warped, or stretched out.

Tinsel (pronounced “tihn-suhl”) is a noun.

  • It means the silver plastic threads that are used to decorate Christmas trees.
  • It can also mean metallic cloth thread, which often spins the plastic metal strands with black fabric threads.
  • It can also mean very thin pieces of metal used to create a shimmering effect cheaply.
  • TRIVIA: An older nickname for Hollywood, CA is “Tinseltown.”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Tino and his baby brother Toby were helping to decorate the family Christmas tree. Tino had just placed the last bulb on the tree. He hadn’t noticed Toby had opened the tinsel. He pulled at multiple strands of it, stretching them between his fingertips as far as they would go. They burst in half. Toby was disappointed, he thought they would be as tensile as his silly putty. 

“Oh no, Toby! Give me that,” said Tino. “We can’t use this tinsel to decorate the tree now. Dad will have to pick up more later.”

Easily Confused Words: Improv vs. Improve

Improv and improve 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.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Improv (pronounced “ehm-prawv”) is short for improvisation, which is a noun. Improv a form of theater where a team of actors performs routines of the top of their head with minimal prompt.

Improvisation is any time someone is doing something off the top of their head instead of rehearsing, practicing, or planning what he/she would do in advance. In public speaking, a popular idiom for improvisation is talking “off the cuff.”

Improve (pronounced “ehm-prewv”) is a verb. It means to analyze and correct one’s behavior, work, or other activity for the better.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Imre and Ingmar were struggling to change their mime act into a successful improv act. They enrolled in an acting class to order to improve.

Easily Confused Words: Alienation vs. Annihilation

Alienation and annihilation 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.

Alienation (pronounced “ailee-uh-nay-shun”) is a noun. It means a feeling of abandonment and isolation. This can be physical or emotional.

Annihilation (pronounced “uh-neye-uh-lay-shun”) is a noun. It means a devastating defeat or utter destruction of someone, or something, else.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Annie wasn’t sure she liked her peer group at prep school anymore.

It started with the alienation of a new girl, Zoey, from a lower income neighborhood. Andrea, the leader of Annie’s clique, demanded they take turns picking on the girl for her clothes. Zooey just shrugged it off. Andrea decided that wasn’t enough.

She suggested they ridicule other girls who reached out to her, trash her locker, and get her in trouble with teachers. The goal? Total social annihilation for this girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Annie said nothing back, but she felt like this was really wrong; she didn’t understand why Andrea hated Zoey. 

After a fairly sleepless night, Annie went to school and met with the guidance counselor about what happened. Later that afternoon, Andrea was called to the office and put on suspension for the rest of the week. In her absence, Annie befriended Zoey. The other girls in the clique–Gretchen, Livvy, and Ceci– followed her lead.

Easily Confused Words: Vital vs. Viral

Vital and viral 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.

Vital has multiple meanings.

  • As an adjective, it describes “required for life or survival.” For example, air and water are vital resources for human life.
  • As a noun, it means a thing that is required for life or survival.

Viral is an adjective. It means spreading quickly among people, like a virus. The idiom “go viral” is used when talking about online content that lots of people can’t resist sharing.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Vita was attending a blogging and social media conference. A number of speakers were emphasizing the importance of creating viral content, saying it was vital for gaining an audience. Vita wasn’t so sure. She wanted to create meaningful content, not just silly pet videos.

Easily Confused Words: Whopping vs. Whooping

Whopping and whooping 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.

Whopping (pronounced “wah-pihng”) is an adjective. It is used to modify astonishingly high dollar amounts.

Whooping (pronounced “woo-pihng”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to make a loud cry.
  • As an adjective, it describes things making a cry. Two notable examples? The whooping crane, a large shorebird that makes this noise, and whooping cough, a respiratory infection whose symptoms include an unmistakable cough.
  • As a verb, in slang, it can mean a beatdown or a serious beating. This slang version is pronounced “wuh-ping,” but is spelled the same)

The following story uses both words correctly:

Last month, Whitaker took his baby daughter to the hospital for her fever. It turned out she had whooping cough. The doctors were able to help, thankfully, and she was feeling much better days later.

The bill for the visit came in the mail today. Whitaker opened it. What?! They wanted a whopping $1500 for a brief visit. It was going to be really difficult to pay down this bill and afford Christmas.

Easily Confused Words: Divot vs. Duvet

Divot and duvet 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.

Divot (pronounced “dih-vutt”) is a noun. In golf, it means a half-spherical hole made in the turf by a swinging golf club.

Duvet (pronounced “due-vehy”) is a noun. It means a thick, down-filled quilt or blanket used in bedding.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Divina came home from work to find her lawn had a divot in it, and a hole had been cut in her duvet. She asked her son, Didier, if he knew about these things. He said he had been looking for worms in the grass. With the duvet, he wanted to know what was in there, and if it was real cotton or not. She just shook her head. 

“I need you to wait until I get home and ask me about this stuff,” she said.