No, Your Spell-Checker Probably Won’t Catch These

Here’s another list of some confusables I come across regularly in my editing work. I admit, I will often look words up just to make sure I’m not confused and using the wrong spelling. Two of the biggest offenders, to me are pallet/palette/palate and hoard/horde. A pallet is a shaping tool used by a potter, or it can be a platform used as a bed, or a movable structure on which bricks and bags of soil (you’ve seen them at the nursery) can be stacked and lifted with a forklift. A palette is the board artists use to mix paints, and a palate is either the roof of your mouth or your “taste” (“this food is too spicy for my palate”). A horde of people may want to hoard food if they are afraid of running out.

Here are a few more confusables for your consideration:

  • permissible (allowable)/permissive (giving permission)
  • slight (scant or many other various meanings)/sleight (only used with the expression “sleight of hand”–adeptness in a magic trick or some other deception)
  • imply (express indirectly)/infer (deduce)
  • blond (adjective to describe the hair color)/blonde (only used as a noun for a female with blond hair.)
  • elude (avoid or evade)/allude (refer to, as in “he alluded to my story”)
  • imminent (impending)/eminent (distinguished)/immanent (inherent or indwelling)
The last list item is a particular tricky one and I almost always see the wrong word used. It helps me to keep them straight by remembering that imminent begins the same as immediate (imm) and those those other two words–well, I end up looking them up to check–for good measure.


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    1. Almost no one understands that “a blonde” is a noun, a woman with blond hair. Although Garner says to avoid being sexist, we should not use blonde at all as a noun, since, like the word brunette, it refers to a woman and not a man. The argument goes on … However, since we use French words in English like fiance and fiancee that distinguish between male and female, I don’t have a problem with using blonde and brunette for women, since it’s become integrated into common usage. And I don’t feel it’s sexist unless the context makes it so.

      1. I didn’t know about blond/blonde, either – I just thought it was a European spelling of the same word, like color versus colour.

        And I didn’t know about the difference between fiance and fiancee, either! Thanks for an educational post.

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