Words to Write By Part 5


In this installment of “Words to Write By,” I’ll review use vs. utilized, bear vs. bare, shuttered vs. shuddered, and breath vs. breathe. 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 in earlier parts of this series, and you will see some of those appear with their names to acknowledge their contribution to the list.

Use vs. utilized: If you misuse these two words, fear not, most people do. The most common mistake people make is using the word utilized when they really mean use. In fact, most of the time when there’s an option to use one or the other, the right option is probably the word use. This is probably one where I don’t need to offer a definition for the word use, but I will. It means to employ something for a task. The one that trips people up is utilize. Utilize means when you use something for a purpose other than it was originally intended. We utilize our gazebo as a place to store our patio furniture and garden decorations during the winter. It can also refer to the effective use of nutrients by the body.

Bear vs. bare: This one has been on my list for a while, and Nellie Pachecho recently mentioned I should include this set, so I thought I’d put them in this week. I’ll try to keep this simple. Bare is more limited in its different uses. Bare is to refer to something that’s exposed or uncovered (or without clothing). His head was bare even though I gave him a hat to protect him from the plummeting temperatures. It is also used for something that is without adornment. Steven didn’t have money to spend on artwork, so he left his walls bare. Bear has many meanings that are commonly used beginning with the animal. Did you see the black bear at the zoo? I can also means to accept or endure. The weight of his problems was more than he could bear. To carry or support. That wall is a load-bearing wall. Bear has several other similar meanings. Keep in mind that bare is limited to naked or unadorned (in other words, without something). Otherwise the word you want is bear or it’s past tense bore. Nathan bore a striking resemblance to his father.

Shuttered vs. shuddered: This is an error that I believe comes about due to the close spelling and sound of these two words. Shuttered refers to the closing of shutters of a window on a house. The windows were shuttered in preparation for the hurricane. Shuddered, on the other hand, is to tremble in fear or disgust. Micah shuddered at the thought of walking through the haunted house alone.

Breath vs. breathe: This is a difficult error to catch, because of the close spelling of the two words. If the wrong word is used, it won’t be picked up by spell check and the eye often glosses over it because of the close spelling. Breath is an act of breathing. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves. Breathe has a long e sound and refers to the act of air going into the lungs and then being released. A lump caught in Kaitlynn’s throat and she couldn’t breathe for a moment.


Look for future installments of “Words to Write By.” You can find links to the rest of the series 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.

Part 3: Who’s vs. whose, whet vs. wet, compliment vs. complement, fazed vs. phased.

Part 4: Fiancé vs. fiancée, insure vs. ensure, alright vs. all right, and simultaneous vs. contemporaneous.


As always, feel free to tell me about any misused words you’ve come across lately. Or, are there any words that you have trouble remembering the proper use of? If I use your suggestion in a future post, I’ll include your name and a link to your blog (if you have one) to acknowledge your contribution to the list.


  1. // Reply

    Great list! I’ve never misused these words, though. 😊

    1. // Reply

      It’s funny, when I’m editing there will be times when I come across a word that I have to check if I used the correct word, and after I check it and find that it’s right, I’ll remember I’ve checked it several times before in other rounds of editing, but for some reason I don’t trust it. Other times, the second I see a word, I’ll know I used the wrong one and wonder what I possibly could have been thinking when I wrote it.
      That’s the problem, I can know the difference, but my mind is so caught up in the story and my fingers will type whatever they want.

  2. // Reply

    I screw up with these (and more) quite often. Fortunately, we have two editors in our writing group. They keep me on my toes and the red ink flowing over my work.

    1. // Reply

      Writing groups are so wonderful for that. There are a couple pairs of words that no matter how many times I look them up, I can’t keep them straight. Eventually, they’ll make it into one of these posts, but I have to think of a way to easily explain the differences first. Maybe then I’ll remember them.

  3. // Reply

    Thank you for visiting McClendon Villa. I am happy to find your series about misused words. In the past, I had no question about which word to use where. Now that I’m older and dealing with some cognitive issues, all I have are questions. Bare and bear get me every time. ‘Altogether’ and ‘all together’ cause confusion for me sometimes, too. There are many others that I have to look up most every time.

    Have a blessed week!

    1. // Reply

      I’m glad you like it, Suzanne! I really enjoy writing this series. The more I learn about words and grammar, the more I realize how very little I actually know. Grammar is a rather interesting thing for me because the rules are changing. Even the usage of different words has changed over time. It keeps it interesting though.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

      1. // Reply

        You’re welcome, Mandie. Sometimes I think these things are changing so fast that I will never be able to catch up. Even the terminology is different now from the words used for parts of sentences, etc., when I was in school. I am 52 years old. I probably won’t even recognize English in another 20 years. 🙂

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