The English language is a complicated, confusing, and ever-evolving mechanism. Word meanings are changing all the time, so it’s easy to see why it’s difficult to keep the use of different words straight. Especially given the number of homophones we have in this language. Here are a few groups of words that writers tend to misuse. There are other definitions or uses for some of these words, but these are the most common uses with simplified explanations.
Peak vs. peek vs. pique: These are often misused, so I’ll try to keep it simple. Peak is the highest point of something. I’d like to climb to the peak of that mountain. This is the spelling people most often use when they really want the word peek, as in to peek through something. Charlie peeked through the curtains to watch the police at his neighbor’s house. The last one is the spelling a number of people are unfamiliar with, but the phrase that it’s commonly used in will be quite familiar to you whether you’ve seen this spelling before or not. The arrival of a fifth police car piqued my interest.
Further vs. farther: These two have a lot of crossover, but here’s an easy way to remember them that will keep you using them correctly. Think of farther as describing a physical distance. How much farther do we have to drive? Further, on the other hand, is easier to think of as metaphorical or figurative distance. She’d like to further her education.
Blonde vs. blond: There are a number of people who think the difference between these two is a preference in spelling, but there is actually a difference in their use. Here’s the easiest way to remember them. If you want to discuss the color of hair, use blond. The best use of blonde is as a noun to refer to a woman who has blond hair. The blonde strolled into the department store with revenge on her mind.
Gray vs. grey: The difference in spelling of these two words is simple; although, most people don’t know why there are two spellings. The easy answer, gray is the American spelling and grey is the British spelling. If nothing else, with this one, be consistent.
Look for another installment of “Words to Write By” in the future. I’m always gathering words when editing. I hope this will be another way to pass on the information that I find interesting and help other writers in the process.
Have a beautiful day, and until next time happy writing!