In this installment of “Words to Write By,” I’ll review who’s vs. whose, whet vs. wet, compliment vs. complement, and fazed vs. phased. This series is a quick reference to help explain the difference between commonly misused words. I’ve received suggestions from other writers and readers on words they’ve seen misused during the first two parts of this series, and you will see some of those appear with their names to acknowledge their contribution to the list.
Who’s vs. whose: I find this is an easy one to keep straight once you break down the use of each word. Who’s is a contraction of who is. Who’s going to clean up this mess? Whose indicates possession. Whose trombone is this?
Whet vs. wet: I think these two get confused, because there is a very specific expression that uses the word whet, but I don’t think everyone knows that there is a different way to spell wet in that instance. So let me start with whet. Whet means to stimulate appetite or to sharpen a weapon or tool. These appetizers should whet your appetite. The blacksmith whet the sword. By contrast, wet is to dampen something with liquid. Why is the floor all wet?
Compliment vs. complement: This comes from Rachael Dixon, a fellow horror writer. A compliment is a positive remark. Steven complimented Rebecca on her performance. Complement is to add or complete something in a favorable manner. Their personalities really complement each other. That blue shirt complemented Theodore’s eyes.
Fazed vs. phased: Faze is to disturb something or someone. Sara was a professional during her speech, she didn’t even seem fazed when the mic cut out. Phase is one part of a cycle, or the gradual change to something. The university phased out the microbiology program.
Look for future installments of “Words to Write By.” You can find links to the first two below.
Part 1: Peak vs. peek vs. pique, further vs. farther, blonde vs. blond, and gray vs. grey.
Part 2: Alleged, hung vs. hanged, a vs. the, and bring vs. take.
Did any of these words surprise you or ever give you trouble, or have you ever seen them used incorrectly? What other words either give you trouble when you write, or bother you when they’re misused? If I use the word(s) you suggest in your comment in a future post in this series, I’ll not only add your name, but I’ll include a link to your website if you have one.