Vocabulary Quiz #3: Commonly Confused Words

By Mark Nichol

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.)

1. Any business leader with a ______ of sense would say this is the perfect time to borrow money to rebuild the country.
a) whit
b) wit

2. In an integrated curriculum, subjects are not dissected and separated into _____ chunks.
a) discreet
b) discrete

3. She finally _____ in her silliness and got back to work.
a) reined
b) reigned

4. A company’s name change always _____ the business.
a) effects
b) affects

5. He never seemed _____ by my requests.
a) fazed
b) phased

Answers and Explanations

1. Any business leader with a whit of sense would say this is the perfect time to borrow money to rebuild the country.

This sentence refers to a modicum, or small amount, of sense; a whit is a small amount.

2. In an integrated curriculum, subjects are not dissected and separated into discrete chunks.

The chunks in question are discrete (meaning “separate”), not discreet (meaning “prudent” or “unobtrusive”).

3. She finally reined in her silliness and got back to work.

The person restrained her behavior as if controlling a horse with reins; reign means “to rule,” which may erroneously lead writers to think that the idea is of ruling one’s behavior.

4. A company’s name change always affects the business.

As a verb, effect means “to bring about.” Here, the meaning is “causes an impact,” which is the definition of affect. (A company’s name change does not bring about the business, but one could write that “A company’s name change effected a loss of income for the business, though caused or “resulted in” would be a better choice.)

5. He never seemed fazed by my requests.

Faze means “disconcert,” while the verb form of phase refers to carrying out in stages or introducing by stages. Requests can be phased, but one cannot be phased by them.

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9 Responses to “Vocabulary Quiz #3: Commonly Confused Words”

  • Dale A. Wood

    assumption >—< presumption

  • Dale A. Wood

    Oh, “deplume” and “exhume” were included as little jokes, and also because they end in “ume” just like the others. There are also “illume” and “volume”.
    Once again, the silly computer system has eliminated the arrows between corresponding pairs, and so I will try again by reversing the arrowheads: assume >—< presume.

  • venqax

    At the risk of reviving the subject, the recent electoral season has highlighted the common confusion of canvas and canvass. So, there’s that.

  • venqax

    What do people confuse with “deplume”?

    Such a peculiar person is said to be affected. To have an affect or affectation.

  • Dale A. Wood

    To a person well-versed in technology, these would all look strange with “affect”: aerodynamic effect, Compton effect, Hall effect, ionization effect, magnetic effect, electromagnetic effect, gravitational effect, and Mössbauer effect.
    Is a peculiar person said to be “effected” or “affected”?

  • Dale A. Wood

    Never forget these:
    assume, exhume, deplume, presume, reassume, resume, resume’, subsume, and especially the pairs assume presume, and
    assumption presumption.
    Also, resign and re-sign.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Never forget these: succeed, succede, secede, supersede, superceed (an accepted alternative spelling of supersede), superseed, super seed, successor, predecessor, precede, preceed, recede, reseed, re-seed, session, and cession. Confusion abounds here!
    Also, councilor, counselor, consoler, and counciler.

  • Dale A. Wood

    I came across a strange phrase in the Wikipedia yesterday about languages.
    It said “German in Antiqua”, but that surely looks like “German in Antigua”. My immediate reaction was, “They don’t speak German on Antigua. Antigua is very, very English.”
    Well, so-called “Antiqua” is really a kind of typeface.

  • ApK

    I may need to bookmark this article. I can never remember discrete/discreet, and if I needed to write number #4, my thought process would Porky Pig as:
    “A company’s name change always affe…(no that doesn’t look right)….effe…(no,that doesn’t make sense)…impacts the business.”

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