Easily Confused Words: Census vs. Consensus

Census and consensus 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.

Census (pronounced “sihn-suhss”) is a noun. It means a population count conducted by state or national government at periodic intervals. The US has conducted them since 1957. Censuses provide data that indicates needs for new or updated services and infrastructure.

Consensus (pronounced “kahn-sihn-suss”) is a noun. It means multiple persons or parties coming to an agreement or prevailing opinion on an issue.

The following story uses both words correctly:

President Concessa proposed a census needed to be taken next year in her island nation of Sedeza. The last one, scheduled for 2015, had been postponed due to a tumultuous hurricane season. It was hard to get the legislature to reach a consensus on this issue. A stalwart wing of conservatives claimed it would cost too much money to hire people to collect the data and others to interpret it.

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Easily Confused Words: Shred vs. Shared

Shred and shared 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.

Shred (pronounced “sh-red”; rhymes with dead, fed, bed) is a verb.

  • It means to cut into strips or other small pieces.
  • It can also mean to vigorously play guitar, especially electric guitar hooked up to an amplifier. The harder you play, the louder it gets.
  • A related plural noun, “shreds,” means the pieces created from shredding something. figuratively, someone might use it to describe their heart, well-being, or emotional state after a painful event.

Shared (pronounced “sh-aired”; rhymes with cared, fared, bared) has multiple meanings.

  • As a past tense of the verb “share,” it indicates an item that two or more people used, consumed, etc. in cooperation with one another: “Last week, my roommate and I shared sushi and bottle of wine to toast starting our first new jobs after graduation.”
  • As a past tense of the verb share, it can mean to tell a story.
  • As an adjective, it describes a thing or item owned, or used by, two or more people. “Shared spaces” might describe the kitchen and bathroom in a dormitory or apartment. “Shared content” describes news or other media posted on social media for audience consumption.

The following story uses both words correctly:

At her Parents Without Partners meeting, Cheryl shared a story of losing her husband in a work accident. “My heart was torn to shreds,” she said, “We didn’t even get to say goodbye. It was very hard for my girls to understand that dad wasn’t coming home.” 

(My stories are fictional, but Parents Without Partners is a real group for widowed and recently widowed parents to find kindred spirits. I included a link in this story. Thanks for reading!)

Easily Confused Words: Stent vs. Stint

Stent and stint 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.

Stent (pronounced “stehnt”; rhymes with tent, lent, scent, bent) is a noun. It’s a medical term. It means a small expandable tube that is used to unblock a blood vessel or other body parts.

Stint (pronounced “stihnt”; rhymes with hint, flint, mint, tint) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it can mean a temporary task, or a briefly held job.
  • As a noun, it can also mean a ration or allotment of something, like food, money, clothing, etc.
  • As a verb, it means to be cheap or frugal, to get by on meager income.
  • As a verb, it can also mean to withhold or be stingy with a resource, to restrict.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Stanley was happy to have a stint taking over Stephen’s job duties while he was away on paternal leave. When Stephen returned, Stanley had just learned he needed a stent placed near his heart and would need to be off work for several weeks. Stephen said he would help in any way he could.

Easily Confused Words: Complacent vs. Complicit

Complacent and complicit 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.

Complacent (“kuhm-play-sihnt”) is an adjective. It describes someone that is generally satisfied with conditions and too comfortable to complain or make a fuss.

Complicit (pronounced “kuhm-pliss-itt”) is an adjective. It describes someone who is guilty of being an accessory to someone else’s criminal or immoral activity. Maybe they were involved in it, or covering it up, or maybe they are guilty because they refuse to blow the whistle on wrongdoing or corruption that they are aware of.

The following story uses both words correctly:

So many townsfolk were convinced Compton had been complicit in a recent robbery involving his classmates. Thankfully when the case was brought to court, the defense was able to provide enough evidence of to indicate reasonable doubt. The jury couldn’t be complacent and just submit a guilty verdict for another boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Complicate vs. Complicit

Easily Confused Words: Prototypical vs. Stereotypical

Prototypical and stereotypical 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.

Prototypical (“proh-toe-tih-pih-kuhl”) is an adjective. It describes something that is an example or model for identical things to be made in the near future. [The related noun, “prototype,” means the sample or model made in advance of mass production. The prototype enables final decisions to be made about materials, size, weight, color, packaging, etc.]

In a more figurative sense, someone could be called a prototype when they exhibit desirable behaviors, talents, or characteristics.

Stereotypical (“stare-ee-oh-tih-pih-kuhl”) is an adjective. It describes things repeatedly attributed to one group of people. These things are usually negative or demeaning. They do not reflect an absolute pertaining to all people in a group, or some inescapable reality.

Stereotypes:

  • exploit and exaggerate physical appearances
  • claim _____ are deceitful about money, business, love & sex, or a combination of these things.
  • claim ____ are unattractive for hiring or relationships
  • claim ______ are simple minded because of a disability or sensory issue
  • claim ______ lack work ethic
  • claim ______ have too much ambition they embarrass others, and are a threat

Here’s some links to pages that discuss these images in TV, Film & Internet and why they’re problematic:

The following story uses both words correctly:

Proteus was almost done with one of his first animation projects for school. It had taken months to put together, so it was good to see the end of the semester arriving soon. He was proud of the film. He felt it was an intriguing horror story, and was a prototypical of things to come. He hoped to do a series of horror films.

He asked his friend Stacia to watch it and provide her thoughts. “Wow that was thrilling movie, Proteus. The images and action are all sharp, but..”

“But what?”

“The girlfriend seems pretty stereotypical, don’t you think?”

 

Easily Confused Words: Oust vs. Outs

Oust and outs 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.

Oust (“owsst”; rhymes with joust, faust) has multiple meanings. As a verb. It means to terminate or fire someone. It can also mean to evict or throw out a renter or resident from a property.

Ousted is a related adjective, it describes the person being fired or evicted.

Outs (“owts”; rhymes with louts, pouts) is a noun, the plural form of out.

  • It can mean a state of eviction, dismissal, expulsion from role, a residence, or dumped from a relationship. Typically it’s used in a prepositional phrase “on the outs.”
    • For example, the latest Hollywood breakup might be reported as “on the outs,” meaning close to finished, terminated.
  • In sports, outs can refer to multiple instances of strikes or when players failed to beat the ball to a base. Outs in tennis and other sports can refer to a multiple instances of a ball falling outside the permitted boundary line, or being hit there by a player.

Out has other forms and meanings, but they don’t pertain to this particular post so they aren’t included here.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Ozmund had to oust Ostin the referee from his job. It had been discovered that he frequently called outs and other playing offenses on some teams while disregarding others. Parents had videotaped the games. After several seasons, they had noticed unfortunate patterns emerge in his calls. Once they replayed examples of footage for school staff, Ozmund knew he had to let him go.

Easily Confused Words: Then vs. Than

Then and than 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.

Then (pronounced “thuh-ehnn”; rhymes with when, ben, zen) is an adverb. Then is used to indicate an event in time, an event in relation to other events, or a event based on conditions.

  • The party is tomorrow night, I’ll just pick up my dessert dish then.
  • If it’s raining tonight, then I need to bring a jacket.
  • We reused everything we could back then. It was about being thrifty, not the environment.

In mathematics:

  • If x=y and y=5, then x=5. 

Than (pronounced “thuh-ann”; rhymes with can, plan, man) is a conjunction, like “and,” “but,” and “or.”

A conjunction depends on two or more things for a comparison. Often, one item has the edge, it has a more desirable trait than the other:

  • This shirt is an on-trend color, and it’s priced lower than that one!
  • The crackers were easier to reach than the cookies. So I’m noshing on Goldfish.

In mathematics:

  • 5 is greater than (“>”) 3. 
  • 1/4 is less than (“<“) 1/2.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Thien was at a family reunion when he overheard an aunt talking. He was just around the corner. She didn’t know he was within earshot when she said the following:

“If Thien had just studied like his twin sister Theodosha, then his grades would have been better. He would have gotten into a better college. Theodosha makes three times more money than Thien does.”

Thien just rolled his eyes and sulked back to the wine table.