Easily Confused Words: Ballot vs. Ballet

Ballot and ballet 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.

Ballot (pronounced “bough-luht”; rhymes with mallet) is a noun.

  • It means a paper or electronic form a citizen uses to vote. Votes can be for political leaders, new laws, or changes to existing laws.
  • In organizations, it means a written note indicating a preference for organizational business: officer choices, spending funds, etc.

Ballet (pronounced “bah-lay”; rhymes with beret, delay) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means a form of dance famous for leaps, elegant spins on one foot, dramatic lifts of female dancers by male dancers.
  • As an adjective, it describes costumes, shoes, and other items related to this form of dance: ballet slippers, ballet tutu, ballet dance class.

The following story uses both words correctly:

It was almost the end of the year, and there was a Beta Club fund surplus. Club members were asked to vote by secret ballot: should they go to a baseball game, a ballet, or throw a party for fun?


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