Easily Confused Words: Denouement vs. Denouncement

Denouement and denouncement 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.

Denouement (pronounced “dey-nooh-mawhn”) is a noun. [Because it’s French, the word has a soft ending, the “t” is not pronounced.] It means the conclusion of the loose ends in the plot of a play or novel. It can also mean the conclusion of a series of unforeseen, unlikely, “against the odds” events.

Denouncement (pronounced “dey-nounce-mihnt”) is a noun. It means a declaration that condemns someone or something else. The related verb is denounce.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Denmark didn’t think he would ever be in this situation. That morning, he had made a denouncement to his high school class: there needed to a new vote for the class superlatives, and for class president for the remainder of the year. 

Dennis, well-liked athletic hero of his small town, had been voted mot popular and most likely to succeed earlier that year. Now, he faced charges of inappropriate relations with a minor. He had also been accused of cheating to achieve his good grades: hiring underclassmen to write his papers.

When the new election occurred, Stacy Stevens was declared the winner. Though she had lived in town for years, she was hardly the bubbly popular girl stereotype. For years, most people knew her as a girl who played oboe who still had braces on her teeth. She was considered an average student.  Teachers didn’t remember her.

But junior year things had started changing. Her public profile was definitely rising, and other good things were happening for her. She started leading the marching band and coordinated winning competition routines. She finally got her braces off. As her confidence improved, her class participation scores improved, which helped her grades. Winning the special election for class president proved to be the denouement for her final years in high school. She would win a full scholarship for music.


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