Spelling, Vocabulary, and Confusing Words

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Many words in English sound or look alike, causing confusion and not a few headaches. This section lists some of these words, and other troublemakers.


Gait: stride; the way a person or animal walks or runs.

Gate: a barrier.


Gamut originally referred to the entire range of musical notes that the ear can recognize. It has come to mean the range or extent of anything: His speech ran a gamut of emotions. Do not confuse run the gamut with run the gantlet (see gantlet, gauntlet).


These two words, despite their similarity, come from different roots. The distinction should be preserved.

The expression run the gantlet means "to undergo criticism or harassment from several sources in a concentrated period of time." It is often written run the gauntlet, which makes language nitpickers cry foul.

To throw down the gauntlet is to aggressively challenge someone. To take up the gauntlet is to accept such a challenge.


In popular usage, jell means "to come together": Our team is starting to jell. Gel refers to a jellylike substance: hair gel.


Gilt: gold coating.

Guilt: fault; blame; shame.


A word with a split personality suitable for backhanded compliments and faint praise. Glib can mean "smooth," "urbane." But it can also mean "superficial," "too slick."


He graduated high school last weekend. Make it graduated from. There are even some fussbudgets who'd insist he was graduated from high school. But graduated from is as correct as was graduated from.


Note the double f and single t. Graffiti is the plural of graffito, Italian for "little scratching." Therefore, There was graffiti all over the wall is incorrect. Make it There were graffiti all over the wall.


Grill: a grated metal cooking utensil (noun); to cook over direct heat (verb).

Grille: a network of metal, wooden, or plastic bars that acts as a barrier or screen.


Grisly means "horrific," "gruesome." However, grisly bears are not necessarily grizzly bears, North American brown bears known for their fierceness.

Don't confuse grisly with gristly, which means "tough," "chewy."


Note the spelling: double r, double l. Some think "guerilla" with one r is a valid alternative, but the word derives from guerra, which means "war" in Spanish.

Misused Words

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