Commonly confused words

Anagha is a technical writer at Siemens, Pune. She has also dabbled in writing blogs, plays, content for websites, reviews, short stories, letters to the editor, and to-do lists.

Anagha Chandratrey

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Can I ask you a question? You can, but you may not. Avoid these common vocab mistakes. Tweet this

To read more about a word pair, move the cursor over the box.

accept - except

accept: to agree to receive or do.

except: not including.

To accept is to agree. The word except excludes something from a list.

To accept is to agree. The word except excludes something from a list.

affect - effect

affect: to change or make a difference to.

effect: a result; to bring about a result.

To affect a change is to cause it. And cause comes before effect, just like A and C come before E.

Affect = cause (verb). Effect = result (noun).

assent - ascent

assent: agreement, approval.

ascent: the action of rising or climbing up.

To assent is to agree. Remember that only a donkey (ass) agrees with everyone and everything!

Remember, only a donkey (ass) agrees with everyone and everything!

complement - compliment

complement: to add to so as to improve.

compliment: to praise or express approval.

Complements are for objects. Vanilla sauce complements chocolate cake.

Compliments are for people. I complimented her baking skills.

Complements are for objects. Compliments are for people.

discreet - discrete

discreet: careful not to attract attention.

discrete: separate and distinct.

Remember the two Es are separated by the T in discrete, which means separate and distinct.

Two Es together don't want attention.

doubt - question

doubt: to be suspicious about.

question: to ask a question.

You are talking to a product manager about the new product, and you don't understand something. You want to request more information related to a specific command.
You say, "Excuse me, I have a doubt."
What the product manager hears, "I am suspicious."
What you should have said, "Excuse me, I have a question."

Excuse me, I have a question.

it's - its

it's: contracted form of 'it is'.

its: possessive form of 'it'.

Read a sentence using 'it is' in place of 'its'. If the sentence makes sense use the apostrophe. If it doesn't, drop the apostrophe.

log in - login and set up - setup

log in: a verb followed by a preposition.

login: a noun, and sometimes an adjective.

set up: a verb followed by a preposition.

setup: a noun, and sometimes an adjective.

Verbs are actions. Use log in to indicate an action ("I want to log in and check for updates").

Uses of login: "IT has not activated my login yet" (noun) or "I have created a login page for our website" (adjective).

Verbs are actions. Use log in to indicate an action.

loose - lose

loose: the opposite of tight.

lose: the opposite of find.

Loose and tight both have 5 letters.

Lose and find both have 4 letters.

Loose and tight both have 5 letters. Lose and find both have 4 letters.

principal - principle

principal: most important; the head of a school.

principle: a fundamental rule or belief.

A princi-pal is your most important buddy in school.

A princi-pal is your most important buddy in school.

precede - proceed

precede: to come before something else.

proceed: to go forward.

Go = proceed. Before = precede.

Go = proceed. Before = precede.

deploy - install

deploy: to come into a position ready for use.

install: to establish in an office, position, or place.

In a software context, to make something ready to use is deploy.

Use install in situations which require some amount of configuration.

Deploy = ready to use. Install = do some work before it's ready to use.

adaptive - responsive

adaptive: In web designing, an adaptive design uses multiple predefined templates to customise the appearance of a website. Each template corresponds to a different screen size or device.

responsive: In web designing, a responsive design use a fluid template that simply adjusts the elements on the screen to fit on any screen size.

When designing a website, designers either adapt a basic template to create different versions of it for different screen sizes (adaptive), or create a single template that automatically responds to the viewer's screen size (responsive).

We couldn't think up a cartoon.

respond - revert

respond: to reply to a communication, verbal or written.

revert: to reset something to a previous configuration. Example: roll back to a previous version.

A human responds. Software reverts.

Respond = reply. Revert = reset.

migrate - upgrade

migrate: to 'move' from one system or software to another.

upgrade: to add functionality to or improve an existing system or software.

A migration might automatically upgrade your situation, but not necessarily. For example if you move your photos from Yahoo's servers to Google's servers, you migrated from one system to another. But you didn't necessarily upgrade. But if you moved from a free service that simply hosts your photos to a paid service that allows you to share photos, and print and frame them, the migration is also an upgrade. If you are moving to a newer version, it's an upgrade.

Migrate = move. Upgrade = move up.




Commonly confused words

Written by Anagha Chandratrey. Narrated by Anindita Basu.

The narrator, Anindita Basu, is an editor with IBM, India. She has been a technical communicator since 2006. Her interests include DITA, languages, documentation process improvements, and Indology.