Easily Confused Words: Excise vs. Exercise

Excise and exercise 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.

Excise (pronounced “ehx-size”) is an adjective. It describes taxes assigned to certain consumable goods during their manufacture, production, or point of sale. These taxes can also exist for professional and sports licenses. Examples of excise taxes in the US include those related to alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.

Exercise (pronounced “ehx-urr-size”) has multiple forms.

  • As a noun, it means activities that move one’s body around for fitness, calorie-burning, strength training, or a combination of any of those things.
  • As a verb, it means to participate in an activity: for example, exercising the right to vote.

The following story uses both words correctly:

To deal with the obesity epidemic, one legislator proposed an excise tax for businesses that made sugary drinks, and an additional tax for businesses that sold these drinks.

Not to be outdone, one of their rivals in the legislature proposed taxing workers with desk jobs per excess pound. This was met with instant outcry. Still another suggested taxing businesses that didn’t have all workers getting exercise for at least 1/3 of their workday. 

It seemed everyone could agree there was a problem, but they couldn’t get anywhere close to a real solution. Somewhere along the line, remedying this issue was going to be painful to somebody’s wallet.



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