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People who write well easily convey their ideas and increase their influence. Poor writing makes you stand out – in an unpleasant way. Here are some tips for accurate writing to help you pick the right word or use that pesky semicolon.

Please note that some of the word pairs aren’t pure homophones, such as the first one: accept/except, and the second: affect/effect. For the purposes of language skills, I believe that they’re close enough in sound to get easily confused. And be sure to check this post for more.

Accept/Except

To accept is to receive with the more subtle meaning of “allow.”

“I accepted the invitation with gratitude.”

To except means to exclude.

“He excepted the children from his ruling.”

Advice/Advise 

“Advice” and “advise” are closely related in meaning. They both refer to opinions and recommendations. The difference is that advice is a noun and advise is a verb.

  • “I advise you to closely study homophones.”
  • “He paid close attention to his teacher’s advice to study the list of homophones.”

Affect/Effect

A simple rule for understanding the difference between these two words is to remember that “affect” is a verb that means to influence something. “Effect,” a noun, is the thing that was influenced.

  • “Her reputation affected the results of the election.”
  • “Her reputation had the effect of changing the election results.”

Adding confusion to this issue, affect can also be a noun: “She had a surly affect as she snarled, ‘You are in my seat!’”

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Bare/Bear

People rarely get confused when “bear” refers to the large animal that may chase you. (I speak as a person who wonders what I’d do in this event.) Confusion occurs with the verb forms of bare/bear.

“Bare” means to expose, whether body or emotions are involved.

“He was afraid to bare his feelings.”

“Bear” means carrying, as in water bearer. It may also refer to carrying emotional or other burdens.

“He was able to bear the burden of responsibility for his family.”

Complementary/Complimentary

Vocabulary alert: These two words are notoriously misused. I saw an article on a well-respected email provider’s site about “complimentary” colors.

Both “compliment” and “complement” can be used either as nouns or verbs, adding to the confusion.

“Compliment” means to praise or flatter. When used as “complimentary,” it means free.

  • “’You look lovely.’ She treasured the compliment.”
  • “They were surprised that their registration for the event entitled them to complimentary tickets for the local movie house.”

“Complement” means to complete. Complementary colors: red-green, blue-orange, and yellow-purple, are opposite each other on the color wheel. When combined in the correct proportions, they complete each other to form white light. If you think of “complete” or “completion,” you will use complement correctly.

“As the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cops, Jones and Davis complemented each other.”

Peaked and Piqued

Peaked means reaching a height, as in “Sales peaked in the first quarter.”

Piqued has two meanings – to stimulate, as in “piqued my interest” or to irritate, as in “he was piqued by her tone.”

What I often see is writers misspelling piqued: “She peaked my curiosity” is incorrect.

“Your clients will be delighted, amazed and inspired by our services.”

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Pat Iyer is an editor, author, book coach and ghostwriter who helps individuals create books that encourages their expertise to shine and advances their businesses. She has written or edited 49 of her own books. Order the book here

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