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Essay Writing Help: Some Commonly Confused Words

In spoken language, there are many words that sound quite similar but are spelled differently. It’s important to be able to make a distinction between these words when writing essays for university, as failure to use them correctly can affect your grade significantly. Confusing the following words may seem minor, for those who are not in academic professions—but college instructors are, and will find the failure to distinguish between them to be sloppy and indicate that a student is a poor writer.

Accept and Except


    “Everyone was ready to leave except me.”

    “I can’t accept this gift, it’s far too expensive.”

Affect and Effect


    “She has such a strong effect on me.”

    “She affects me strongly.”

    Note that the meanings of these words are related; effect is a noun, however, and affect is a verb.

Allusion and Illusion


    “The writer made an allusion to the Iliad.”

    “The magician’s illusion fooled everyone.”

All Ready and Already


    “We were all ready to go to sleep at that point.”

    “We were already late for the show.”

All Together and Altogether


    “Altogether, the play was enjoyable.”

    “The friends were all together when the phone call came.”

Apart and A Part


    “Her golden hair set her apart from her brunette siblings.”

    “The college is a part of the university.”

Ascent and Assent


    “Despite the dangerous cold, he braved the ascent and reached the top of the mountain.”

    “She reluctantly gave her assent and finally agreed to go along with him.”

Breath and Breathe


    “She couldn’t breathe.”

    “She couldn’t take a breath.”

Conscience and Conscious


    “He has a guilty conscience.”

    “He wasn’t conscious, but he was alive.”

Cite and Sight and Site


    “You will have to cite your sources when writing a research paper.”

    “The bird flew until it traveled out of sight.”

    “The site of the disaster was deserted.”

Discrete and Discreet


    “Each discrete (separate) part of the contract is important.”

    “She was so discreet, you could tell her anything and she would keep it a secret.”

Lead and Led


    “Pencils are commonly referred to as using lead, although they now use graphite.”

    “The wolf led her farther into the forest.”

Lose and Loose


    “He held on tight; he didn’t want to lose her.”

    “She untied the ribbon and let her hair fall loose.”