Let me help you with those tricky commonly confused words.
After the last edition, where I helped one of our readers with confusion over ‘into’ and ‘in to’, several writers got in touch asking for help with problem words. So, this issue, I’ve devoted the column to dealing with some commonly confused words.
Something to help you remember, when you have those tricky ‘ice/ise’ word endings, is that the ‘ice’ ending will always be a noun. If it has ‘ice’, you have to be able to put ‘the’ in front of it. If you can put ‘to’ in front of the word it’s a verb.
The practice (to practise is the verb)
The advice (to advise is the verb)
Accept: this means to agree or to receive.
I accept you are right.
I accept your gift.
Except: means not including
Take all the suitcases, except the smallest one.
I really like you, except when you’ve been drinking.
Advice (noun)/Advise (verb)
Advice: is given as a recommendation on how to do (or not do) something.
Take my advice and don’t drink.
Advise: to recommend a way to do something.
I advise you not to drink.
Affect: this means to change or make a difference to something or someone.
He was affected by the heat.
Effect: means a result or to achieve a result.
The effect of the new stereo system improved the sound quality.
Altar: this is a place of worship.
The priest knelt before the altar.
Alter: this means to change something.
I want to alter the length of my dress.
Assent: this means agreement.
Everyone gave their assent to the new rules.
Ascent: this means to climb or go up.
The mountaineers completed the ascent in bad weather.
Bare: to uncover or to be naked.
She was as bare as the day she was born.
The investigator wanted to bare the facts.
Bear: an animal, or to carry, or to put up with.
The wild bear attacked the man.
The soldiers had to bear arms.
Her life was hard; she had much to bear.
Brake: a device for stopping something.
Put your foot on the brake.
Break: to damage, to shatter, or a pause in time.
He tried to break the door down.
She hurled the vase and watched it break into pieces.
Let’s take a coffee break and start again later.
Complement: this means to add to in such a way that it improves something.
The matching earrings complement the necklace.
Compliment: to give praise or express approval.
He gave her a nice compliment on her looks.
Council: a group of people who are gathered for a specific purpose.
The council decided to approve repairs to the potholes.
Counsel: this can be a noun meaning the advice, or a verb meaning to advise.
The counsel given was rejected by the man.
Mary was looking for someone to counsel her.
Desert: a dry barren place or to abandon someone.
The Sahara Desert is a fearsome place to get lost.
Mary knew John would desert her one day.
Are you having crème caramel for dessert?
Discreet: this means being careful not to be seen or attract attention.
She kept a discreet distance.
Discrete: this means separate or distinct from something.
There were seven discrete parts to the puzzle.
Draw: to make a picture using pencils or ink, or an even score in a match or game.
I asked John to draw a dog.
The match ended in a two-all draw.
Drawer: a pull-out compartment in a cabinet or other piece of furniture.
He keeps his socks in the top drawer.
Elicit: this means to encourage a reply or some sort of reaction.
Mary managed to elicit a response from John by stealing his socks.
Illicit: illegal or not allowed under the rules of a game or enterprise.
Only illicit booze was available during the prohibition.
Hoard: items gathered together.
The pirates kept their hoard of gold hidden.
Horde: a large gathering of people.
The horde congregated in the centre of town.
Loath: unwilling or reluctant.
I was loath to tell the horde where I’d hidden the hoard.
Loathe: to hate or despise.
I loathe you.
Practice (noun): the use of an idea or method, or the place where professionals, such as doctors, solicitors or dentists work.
Let’s put into practice the things we learned today.
The doctor’s practice is on the High Street.
Practise (verb): this means to do something repeatedly in order to get better at it.
I need to practise playing the piano.
Principal: this means the most important or the head of a school.
The principal reason for writing this post is to help other writers.
The principal called John into his office to find out why he wasn’t wearing any socks.
Principle: a belief or an essential rule.
He lived a life of devotion according to his principles.
The school board governed by following the principles laid down by the founders.
Stationary: not moving.
The car was stationary at the traffic lights.
Stationery: writing materials.
Papers, pens, pencils and pads are kept in the stationery cupboard.
Tortuous: complex, full of twists and turns.
The tortuous instructions were difficult to understand.
The tortuous road through the Alps took us a long time to cover.
His ascent of the mountain was torturous.
Lorraine Mace is the humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a tutor for the Writers Bureau, and is the author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book. She is also co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam of The Writer's ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Lorraine runs a private critique service for writers (details on her website). She is the founder of the Flash 500 competitions covering flash fiction, humour verse and novel openings.
Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of crime/thriller, Bad Moon Rising, featuring Detective Inspector Paolo Storey. The next in the series, Someday Never Comes, will be released on 16th August 2013.