When you misspell a word it’s usually easy to catch, whether you use a spell-check program or not. However, there are some sets of words that are so close in spelling – though far apart in meaning – that your eye might not spot the problem, and a spell-check program certainly won’t mark the word as incorrect if it’s the right spelling, but the wrong word. Here are five sets of words that are frequently confused, and explanations of what each of them mean. Practice using the words and spelling them correctly in context, and you won’t make these mistakes in the future.
If something is stationary it’s not moving, but staying in one position. Stationery is the term used to refer to paper and envelopes, often in decorative or matched sets, that are used for writing letters. You can remember this spelling by remembering that you send a letter in an envelope.
Discreet means “subtle, unobtrusive.” Remember this spelling by keeping in mind that if you meet someone on a crowded street your meeting won’t be very discreet. The word discrete describes things that are separate, unique, or not connected to anything else.
A principle is a belief, law, or code that governs people’s actions. The principal reason to not confuse the spelling of these two words (or any of these word pairs) is that it may make people believe that you don’t know your topic very well. Principal means “first, primary” – remember this spelling by remembering that the letter a is the first letter of the English alphabet.
If you cite someone, it means you’re repeating what they’ve said or written. Remember that the word site (a place or location) starts with the letter s by thinking of the word sight, which also begins with s, and that you can go sight-seeing at historic sites all over the world.
A perquisite (often abbreviated in the plural as “perks”) is a privilege or special access allowed to only a select group of people. For example, if you belong to an airline’s frequent flyer group, one perquisite might be the ability to wait for your flight in a separate comfortable lounge at the airport. However, the prerequisite – something that’s required in order for something else to happen – might be that you have to accumulate 100,000 airline miles before you’re allowed in the door. Remember this spelling by remembering the prefix pre- means “before,” and a prerequisite is something that comes before something else.