Frequently Confused Similar Words

Recently, Sarah Palin mixed the words “repudiate” and “refute” to create the neologism “refudiate.”  While I am impressed by people who use polysyllabic words correctly, I doubt that anyone is impressed by individuals who try to sound educated by using long Latinate-sounding words that do not exist.

I am a linguist as well as a writer, so I know that language is always changing and that new words arise frequently.  However, many of the new words are short and sweet, such as “blog.”  When people use a new word like “blog,” they are not trying to sound brilliant or hyper-educated.  Rather, they are expressing their familiarity with the new media, which is a useful skill.

In addition to amalgamating words as Palin did, some people confuse related words, especially homonyms and other words that have similar sounds but different meanings.  Many writers confuse pairs like “then” and “than” and “peek” and “pique.”  I don’t expect absolute perfection in writing, but I believe that taking a little more time to revise and proofread would make communication much more clear.  What’s the rush?

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