Words to Write By Part 6


A look at the commonly misused words Maya vs. Mayan, hole vs. whole, libel vs. slander, and patience vs. patients.

Words to Write By Part 6

In this installment of “Words to Write By,” I’ll review Maya vs. Mayan, hole vs. whole, libel vs. slander, and patients vs. patience. This series is a quick reference to help explain the difference between commonly misused words. One of the pairs of words this week was contributed by Christy, you’ll see it below.

Maya vs. Mayan: Perhaps it’s because this pair of words has not yet made it into my writing that the distinction between the two escaped my notice for so long, but once it did, I realized I’d been hearing them used incorrectly my entire life. Mayan is overused. It is the language, that’s it. Maya is the culture and the people. The ancient Maya city loomed before the explorers.

Hole vs. whole: Hole is when there is a part missing of something or a hollowed out section. My shirt has a hole in it. Whole means the entirety of something, intact, or unhurt. I’m going to eat this whole pie. If the difference is hard for you to remember, I like to explain it like this: when you have all of something, you have the whole thing, so whole uses all the letters, where hole is missing something, in this case, the w.

Libel vs. slander: Here’s my confession, the misuse of these two words drives me crazy. Maybe because the first journalism class I ever took was a law and ethics class where we learned all about defamation. Or maybe it’s because every time I hear these terms used in a TV show (which is a lot) the wrong word is used. Here’s an easy explanation of the difference. While both libel and slander refer to defamation, or a false statement that brings harm to another person’s reputation, libel refers to statements made in print like a newspaper, while slander is a statement that is spoken.

Patients vs. patience: This pair of words was suggested by Christy, and I’m happy to tackle these homophones. Patients are the people who are awaiting or under the medical care of a doctor. Dr. Williams had several patients in the waiting room with complaints of the stomach flu. Where this may get confusing is that the singular of patients is patient, and patient is also the word for when someone bears a burden without complaint or doesn’t act too hastily. Sarah was very patient when waiting to hear how her grandfather’s heart surgery went. Patience is the habit or ability to be patient. I’m not sure if I could have as much patience as Sarah under similar circumstances.

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.

Part 5: Use vs. utilized, bear vs. bare, shuttered vs. shuddered, and breath vs. breathe.


As a side note, next month, beginning this Sunday, this website is being overtaken by poetry to celebrate National Poetry Month. No one will probably ever see me post so much to the web as they will in April. If you haven’t followed me on Facebook, this would be a good time to do so, I plan on sharing some of my favorite spoken word performances by other poets along with links to poems of bloggers I follow whose poetry I’ve enjoyed. I can’t wait to share this month with all of you.




  1. // Reply

    Having a bit fun with some of the word pairs.

    Doughnuts can be whole and still have a hole.
    The emergency room patients need patience…

  2. // Reply

    Great post and I look forward to some poetry this weekend.

    1. // Reply

      Thank you! As I’ve been sitting here today preparing posts for next month, I’ve thought of you several times and wondered how you are able to post so much. Luckily, I don’t plan to keep up this schedule. Haha You are a blogging wonder.

  3. // Reply

    Great post! Thanks for doing this for your readers =) Quick guides like these are handy for our writing.

    1. // Reply

      I’m so glad people are still enjoying this series. It’s still one of my favorites to write. I have a love and fascination with words, so it’s fun to share that with others, especially if it is helpful.

Leave a Reply