15 slightly confusing words that every fantasy and science fiction writer should know how to use.

I put together this list of fifteen word pairs that are easily confused, but that should be in every fantasy and science fiction writer’s arsenal.  Some of the pairs are true homophones, others are just close enough that many people confuse them.  There are many webpages on the net with larger and more extensive lists than mine, these fifteen are just some of the ones that I have struggled with in the past.

  1. Accept vs Except
  • Accept = to agree or consent to; to take or receive
    • I accept the terms of your surrender.
  • Except = to exclude
    • All crimes may be forgiven, except for murder.
  1. Affect vs. Effect
    • Affect = To act on; to bring about a change in; to pretend or feign
      • A commander’s actions will affect his men.
      • The soldiers affected a nonchalance they did not feel.
    • Effect = To bring about a result; to accomplish
      • The king’s reign has effected many positive changes.
  2. Ascent vs Assent
    • Ascent = Upward movement; rising movement
      • The ascent of the airship was slow and steady.
    • Assent = To agree or concur; subscribe to
      • You will have to assent to the Duke’s demands.
  3. Bazaar vs Bizarre
    • Bazaar= A marketplace or shopping quarter
      • The bazaar was very crowded.
    • Bizarre= Unusual in appearance, style, or general character
      • Some of the outlander clothing is so bizarre.
  4. Breach vs Breech
    • Breach= Break or rupture; the result of breaking
      • After repeated strikes, the trebuchet was able to breach the wall.
    • Breech= The rear part of the bore of a gun; the hind or lower part of anything
      • The large gun was loaded through the breech.
  5. Broach vs Brooch
    • Broach= To initiate for discussion; to tap or pierce
      • The subject was not a comfortable one to broach with the young man.
    • Brooch= A clasp or ornament having a pin at the back
      • What a magnificent brooch you have on today.
  6. Complement vs Compliment
    • Complement= Something that completes or makes perfect
      • The pickled herring was the perfect complement to the poached greens.
    • Compliment= An expression of praise or admiration
      • Receiving a compliment always feels good.
  7. Council vs Counsel
    • Council= A body of persons designated to act as advisors, administrators or legislators
      • The ruling council had twelve distinguished members.
    • Counsel= Advise; opinion or instruction given
      • The old sages counsel was very valuable.
  8. Discreet vs Discrete
    • Discreet= Showing prudence and circumspection; judicious in ones conduct or speech
      • A discreet thief is not always a successful thief, but an indiscreet thief is usually hung.
    • Discrete= Separate; distinct; apart or detached from others
      • The two coins were discrete form the others in the pile.
  9. Dual vs Duel
    • Dual= Composed or consisting or two people, items, parts, etc.
      • He led a dual life, one as a beggar and one as a king.
    • Duel=A prearranged combat between two persons
      • The imprudent youths prepared for their duel
  10. Freeze vs Frieze
    • Freeze= To become hardened into ice or into a solid body; to change state from liquid to solid
      • Set the bucket outside overnight so that the water inside will freeze.
    • Frieze= Any decorative band at the top or beneath the cornice of an interior wall
      • The frieze had been painted by a very famous artist.
  11. Hoard vs Horde
    • Hoard= To accumulate or preserve for future use, usually in a hidden location
      • It is said, that dragons often hoard gold, silver, and fine jewels in their lairs.
    • Horde= A large group, multitude, number, etc.; mass or crowd
      • I have never seen a barbarian horde, but I’ve read about them often.
  12. Pedal vs Peddle vs Petal
    • Pedal= Foot-operated lever used to control certain mechanisms
      • Pedals attached to pulleys and ropes supplied the power to hoist the doors.
    • Peddle= To carry goods from place to place for sale; to deal out
      • It is always a merry day when a peddler comes to town.
    • Petal= One of the often colored segments of the corolla of a flower
      • Rose petals covered the floor.
  13. Prescribe vs Proscribe
    • Prescribe= To designate remedies, treatments, etc.
      • I was hoping for more, but the doctor only prescribed bed rest.
    • Proscribe= To denounce or condemn a thing as dangerous or harmful
      • After deliberation, the council voted to proscribe several nobles.
  14. Rain vs Reign vs Rein
    • Rain= Water that is condensed in the atmosphere and falls to earth
      • Rainy days are so much fun.
    • Reign= Royal rule or authority; the period during which a sovereign occupies the throne
      • This is the thirty-seventh year of the king’s reign.
    • Rein= Leather straps fastened to a bridle by which a rider or driver controls a horse or other animal
      • If you let go of the reins you’ll loose control.

3 comments for “15 slightly confusing words that every fantasy and science fiction writer should know how to use.

  1. Nieves
    July 8, 2014 at 11:20 am

    I like your list. I get the last one mixed up all the time (rein vs reign), but i’m learning…

  2. Ian
    July 3, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Great post. The one I always screw up is “peel” vs. “peal.”

  3. H. R. Ryder
    H. R. Ryder
    June 29, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Having edited many scientific papers, you would be surprised how often people use trails instead of trials…

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