Easily Confused Words: One vs. On

One and on 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.

One (pronounced “wuhn”) is an adjective. It means a single thing or object.

On (pronounced “awn”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a preposition, it indicates a person or object’s position atop, suspended from, or on the surface of something else.
  • As an adjective, it describes something engaged or focused, like turning an appliance or lights power to “on”, or a person performing very well in an ideal state of concentration.
  • As an adverb, it is linked with a verb to provide more specific information: put on a jacket, climb on a horse, etc.

The following story uses both words correctly:

It was early morning, no one else was awake. Oona turned on the light in the kitchen, discovering just one snickerdoodle was left on a party plate. She snatched it, a small carton of milk from the fridge, and snuck back to her room before anyone could see her. 

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Won vs. One.

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