Commonly Confused Words*

Posted by Cila Warncke

*If you insist on writing, learn the difference, please.



There is no way to write this post without coming off like a pedantic arsehole but, as they say, if the shoe fits…

Certain words are commonly confused in otherwise literate copy, which makes me think that some people honestly don’t know the difference. For the edification of absolutely no one, here are some persistent offenders.

If I have to read one more time about some artist’s “rein” at the top of the charts, or someone “reigning in” their ambitions I’ll weep.

1: a strap fastened to a bit by which a rider or driver controls an animal —usually used in plural
2 a: a restraining influence : check b: controlling or guiding power —usually used in plural
3: opportunity for unhampered activity or use

1 a: royal authority : sovereignty b: the dominion, sway, or influence of one resembling a monarch 2: the time during which one (as a sovereign) reigns

The carnival king and queen will reign for a year. The driver has to rein in the horses pulling their float.

The couple having an affair may have left the hotel “discreetly” but that doesn’t necessarily mean they left “discretely”.


1: constituting a separate entity : individually distinct
2 a: consisting of distinct or unconnected elements : noncontinuous b: taking on or having a finite or countably infinite number of values

1: having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech : prudent ; especially : capable of preserving prudent silence
2: unpretentious , modest
3: unobtrusive , unnoticeable

She made discreet enquiries and learned the outcome. In discrete letters to the panel members she made her feelings clear.

One does not “wet” one’s appetite, nor “whet” one’s whistle.

transitive verb 1 : to make wet

1 : to sharpen by rubbing on or with something (as a stone)
2 : to make keen or more acute : excite , stimulate

The cloudless sky whet her eagerness to go windsurfing. First, she wet her finger to test the direction of the breeze.

Definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online


One thought on “Commonly Confused Words*

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s