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.


VAIN, VANE, VEIN

Vain: futile; narcissistic.

Vane: a blade moved by wind: weather vane.

Vein: a blood vessel; a mood.


VENAL, VENIAL

Venal: "corrupt," "able and willing to be bribed."

Venial: "forgivable."

Any writer who inadvertently drops the i in a sentence like Her lapse was venial may want to think about getting a good lawyer.


VERSES, VERSUS

Verses: lines of poetry.

Versus: as compared to another choice; against.


VERY

Serious writers are wary of very. Very often, this very word is very unnecessary.


VIABLE

Viable means "able or fit to live": viable cells, a viable fetus.

In popular usage, viable has become synonymous with possible, workable, feasible. Many purists consider this unacceptable. Roy Copperud, in American Usage and Style, says "the word has had the edge hopelessly ground off it."


VIAL, VILE

Vial: a small container.

Vile: evil, depraved.


VICE, VISE

Vice: a bad habit; an immoral practice.

Vise: a device used to hold an object firmly.


VIRTUALLY

See literally.


Misused Words

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