“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ― Mark Twain.
Words can have more than one basic meaning and some words sound similar but have a completely different denotation. For example:
(Wrong) Older people often suffer infirmaries.
(Right) Older people often suffer infirmities.
Some words are homonyms (sound-alikes) but mean very different things. For example, principal/principle or rain/reign/rein.
Then there are words with similar but distinct meanings.
(Wrong) Television commercials continuously (unceasingly) interrupt programming.
(Right) Television commercials continually (regularly) interrupt programming.
That always introduces restrictive clauses: We should use the lettuce that Susan bought. (This limits the lettuce to a specific lettuce.) That does not need a comma.
And some words have related meaning (denotation) but different connotations:
· Pride—sense of self-worth
· Vanity: excessive regard for oneself
· Firm: steady, unchanging, unyielding
· Stubborn: unreasonable, bullheaded
· Enthusiasm: excitement
· Mania: excessive interest or desire
“For one word a man is often deemed to be wise, and for one word he is often deemed to be foolish. We should indeed be careful what we say.” — Confucius.
What words have you run across that are interchanged in the wrong way?
Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs.