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.


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