Easily Confused Words: Proffer vs. Prefer

Proffer and prefer 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.

Proffer (pronounced “praw-fuhr”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to offer or submit something for approval.
  • As a noun, it means an offer or proposal.

Prefer (pronounced “pree-fuhr”) has multiple meanings. As a verb, it means to show favor for one thing over similar ones, or comparable ones. For example, people often prefer brands over no-name products.

The related noun is “preference,” the related adjective is “preferable.”

The following story uses both words correctly:

Prufrock proffered a marriage proposal to Permelia, and she accepted. His first choice, Maybelle, had fallen through. She confessed that her family would prefer she marry Cornwallis, so that’s what she had to do. She loved Prufrock dearly, and this was the hardest decision she had ever had to make. 

What Prufrock didn’t know was that Permelia had a love affair of her own prior to his proposal: Martin. 

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