Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words: Ad vs. Add

Ad and add 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.

Ad (pronounced “add”; rhymes with lad, bad, mad, fad) is an abbreviation for “advertising” or “advertisement.”

  • Ad agency is short for “Advertising agency,” a business that crafts tailored messages for an audience, and uses appropriate avenues and timeframes to get the message to that audience.
    • Perhaps a soda or beer company has a new flavor that its current users should try, or potential new customers should check out.
    • Perhaps an insurance company is using a humorous message or story to get people to buy something practical and helpful. Geico, Farmers, Progressive are very good at this.
    • Perhaps a whole new product is trying to get a foothold in an already crowded market. Usually the strategy here is to argue existing products don’t work very well, or are missing something.
    • Not all companies hire or can afford an ad agency, instead they produce their own ads, and often, it shows.
  • Ads is short for “Advertisements.” For example, if you watch videos on Youtube, or stream them on your TV, you probably click the “Skip Ad” button on the screen. No one likes ads, but they pay for programming, newspaper articles, you know, the stuff you came to see.

Add (pronounced “add”; rhymes with lad, bad, mad, fad) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it means to put something new with existing material, to blend or combine. For example, when baking its suggested that you add dry ingredients together and mix in one bowl, add the wet ingredients together and mix in another bowl, then add the dry to the wet and mix those together. This forms the batter for cookies, cake, and breads.
  • As a verb, it can mean to supplement something and improve it in the process
  • In mathematics, this is a verb that means to combine two or more numbers to get “sum.” The related noun is addition, which is one of the first forms of math schoolchildren are taught.
  • As a noun, in the phrase “add-ons” these are items that can be included in your purchase if you choose to.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Adaline usually skipped the ads on the streaming videos of her favorite mystery show, but today she just let them run. She was busy adding ingredients to her chili cook off entry for the contest at work. Her hands were messy and dyed with colors of several spices. She didn’t want to touch the remote if she could help it.


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