Easily Confused Words: Span vs. Spawn

Span and spawn 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.

Span (pronounced “spaynn”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to take up or occupy a period of time.
  • As a noun, it means a period of time.

Spawn (pronounced “spahwn”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a set of eggs or a large brood of offspring.
  • As a verb, it means to give birth or yield offspring or eggs. It can also mean to generate an idea or invention.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Spalding spawned fresh, out of the box thinking at his architectural firm; specifically, the era spanning brutalism to post-modernism.


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