Grade School Tricks to Help Avoid Word Confusion

Remember those catchy rhymes and phrases your grade school teacher used to help you remember English language oddities?  Things like “I before E except after C” and “the principal is your PAL”?   I’m not afraid to admit that I still rely on these old tricks when writing; in fact, my brain automatically recalls them when needed (something I am becoming more and more thankful for with each passing birthday!).

Check out these tricks if you need some help with commonly confused words:

  • Compliment vs. Complement: I like to get a compliment.
  • Take vs. Bring:  Take it there without a care, bring it here and have no fear.
  • Dessert vs. Desert:  dessert is something you want more of (therefore two s’s).
  • Hear vs. Here:  Use your ears to hear.
  • Except vs. Accept: Except is to Exclude.
  • Stationary vs. Stationery: A is for stay.
  • Farther vs. Further:  I go far in my car.  (Farther for physical distance, further for figurative distance)
  • Site vs. Sight: We will sit when we get to the site.
  • Affect vs. Effect:  Affect is a verb and Effect is a noun.  (Okay, this one isn’t catchy at all; but it is often used incorrectly and merits memorizing!)

Maybe the English language isn’t really as hard as we think it is.  All we need to do is review our notes from the fifth grade!


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