Commonly Confused Words: A Quick Reference Guide

blog home


Confusing Words

Tricks To Help You Tell Them Apart

Accept vs. Except
  • Think of the word agree as another way of saying accept. If agree works in your sentence, use the word that begins with the letter A– so accept, rather than except.
Affect vs. Effect
  • Remember that the word affect describes an action, whereas effect describes the end consequence.
Allowed vs. Aloud
  • Aloud has the word loud in it.
  • Try replacing the word in your sentence with out loud. If your sentence makes sense, use aloud, otherwise use allowed.
Are vs. Hour vs. Our
  • To remember how to spell the end of the word are, think of its past tense form: were. Both are and were end in re.
  • If you struggle to remember that are needs to start with an A, try putting your sentence into the first person. You are tired, for example, would become I am tired, and the word am should help you remember that are also starts with an A.
  • Remember that our refers to you plus others.
  • Picture the traditional shape of a clock to help you remember that hour has an o in it. Thinking of the time half one may also help you remember how to spell the start of the word.
Bought vs. Brought
  • Try putting your sentence into the present tense.
    The present formation of brought is bring – both begin with br.
Break vs. Brake
  • In break, the E breaks the word in half.
  • In brake, the E works as a brake – it stops the letters from going on.
Cite vs. Site vs. Sight
  • If you are describing something you can see, use a word starting with s.
  • Site has the word sit in it. Try saying to yourself: We’ll sit when we reach the site.
  • To help you remember the gh in sight, say to yourself: Glasses help with bad sight.
  • Citation Is Totally Essential for producing good writing.
Desert vs. Dessert
  • Desserts are sweet and sugary.
  • I like super sweet desserts.
  • My favourite dessert is strawberry shortcake.
  • Think of the Sahara – like the word desert, it only has one S in it.
Less vs. Fewer
  • Do you mean not as many? Use fewer.
  • Do you mean not as much? Use less.
Lose vs. Loose
  • Lose is the word that loses an O (i.e. only has one rather than two).
  • Think of a goose on the loose.
  • Think of the words lost or loss when you need to spell the word lose – all three have just one O.
Passed vs. Past
  • Remember that the word past is used to describe a previous time.
  • Imagine two people with names beginning with S passing something to each other: Sarah and Sally passed the ball back and forth.
  • Put your sentence into the present tense. If the word pass (or passes) makes sense in the new sentence, use passed.
Prescribe vs. Proscribe
  • To remember the O in proscribe, think of prohibit – another pro- word with a similar meaning.
  • Use the vowels in yes and no to help you remember the difference between prescribe and proscribe. Think of prescribe as meaning yes you should do this, and proscribe as meaning no – this is not allowed.
Quiet vs. Quite
  • Quiet: Understand It Ends Talking
  • Use this rhyme to help you remember how to spell quiet: Please keep quiet about my diet.
  • Think of something you hate: It is Quite Unbelievably Impossible To Enjoy ____.
  • Quite has the word quit in it: “I’m not quite ready to quit.
Stationary vs. Stationery
  • If something is stationary, it is standing still – think of the A in stand to help you remember that stationary is spelt with an A too.
  • Stationery includes pens and pencils – think of these two words to help you remember that stationery is spelt with an E. You will also need stationery to write letters, which is spelt with Es too.
Then vs. Than
  • Think of the following conversation between two people to help you remember that then refers to a time.
    A: We had dinner and then we went to the party.
    B: Sorry, when?
    A: On Saturday night.
    When, as another word that refers to time, is also spelt with an E.
  • Then has the word hen in it. Try saying the following to yourself: ‘Then the hen laid an egg.
  • Come up with some comparisons using the letter A to help you remember that than is spelt with an A. For example: I like avocados more than apples.
To vs. Too vs. Two
  • To help you remember the W when writing the number two, imagine it turned onto its left – it looks a little like a 3 which is also a number.
  • Say to yourself: The word too has too many Os.
  • Think of other words that are spelt with two Os as well. For example: The word moon has two Os too.
Weather vs. Whether
  • Weather had the word eat in it. Think of which foods you like to eat in which weathers. For example: I like to eat ice cream when the
    weather is hot.

  • The word whether presents options to a sentence, while the questioning word which asks one to choose between options. Both words begin with wh.

30 Jun 2015
blog home

One of the students has put in a huge amount of effort in completing Spellzone at least 3 times a week since his arrival with us in January. Looking at his scores after the latest GL testing, his standardised score has risen from 99 to 131. This is a truly phenomenal result. I just wanted to share the best result I have ever seen.

Terrie Penrose-Toms, Casterton College