Common Errors Starting with C

cacao vs cocoa

Technically speaking, the plant is called a “cacao tree” and the seeds and the chocolate powder made from them are called “cocoa.” These spellings are often swapped, but in contexts where botanical...

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cache vs cachet

“Cache” comes from the French verb cacher, meaning “to hide,” and in English is pronounced exactly like the word “cash.” But reporters speaking of a cache (hidden hoard) of weapons or drugs often m...

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call the question

This is more a matter of parliamentary procedure than of correct English, but people are generally confused about what “calling the question” means. They often suppose that it means simply “let’s v...

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callous vs callused

Calling someone “callous” is a way of metaphorically suggesting a lack of feeling similar to that caused by calluses on the skin; but if you arespeaking literally of the tough build-up on a person’...

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calvary vs cavalry

“Calvary,” always capitalized, is the hill on which Jesus was crucified. It means “hill of skulls.” Soldiers mounted on horseback are cavalry.

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canadian geese vs canada geese

“Canadian geese” would be any old geese that happen to be in Canada. What people usually mean to refer to when they use this phrase is the specific species properly called “Canada geese.”

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cannot vs can not

These two spellings are largely interchangeable, but by far the mostcommon is “cannot” and you should probably use it except when you want to be emphatic: “No, you can not wash the dog in the Mayta...

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canon vs cannon

“Canon” used to be such a rare word that there was no temptation toconfuse it with “cannon”: a large piece of artillery. The debate overthe literary canon (a list of officially-approved works) and ...

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can’t . . . too

In many contexts, “can’t“ followed by “too” can be confusing. “You can’t put too much garlic in this stew” could mean “be careful not to put too much garlic in this soup” or “there’s no limit to ho...

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canvas vs canvass

Heavy cloth, whether in the frame of a painting or on the floor of a boxing ring, is canvas, with one S.To survey ballots or voters is to canvass them, with two S’s.

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capital vs capitol

A “capitol” is almost always a building. Cities which serve as seats of government are capitals spelled with an A in the last syllable, as are most other uses of the word as a common noun. The only...

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caramel vs carmel

Take Highway 1 south from Monterey to reach the charming seaside town of Carmel, of which Clint Eastwood was formerly mayor. Dissolve sugar in a little water and cook it down until the sugar turns ...

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carat vs caret vs carrot vs karat

“Carrots” are those crunchy orange vegetables Bugs Bunny is so fond of, but this spelling gets misused for the less familiar words which are pronounced the same but have very different meanings. Pr...

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could care less vs could not care less

Clichés are especially prone to scrambling because they become meaningless through overuse. In this case an expression which originally meant “it would be impossible for me to care less than I do b...

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careen vs career

A truck careening down the road is swerving from side to side as it races along, whereas a truck careering down the road may be simply traveling very fast. But because it is not often clear which m...

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caring

Most people are comfortable referring to “caring parents,” but speakingof a “caring environment” is jargon, not acceptable in formal English.The environment may contain caring people, but it does n...

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carousal vs carousel

A carousal is a wild drunken party.When you encounter a “carousal horse,” a “baggage carousal,” or a “carousal CD player,” what is meant is “carousel.” If you’ve been invited to a “carousal party” ...

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catch 22

People familiar with Joseph Heller’s novel are irritated when they see“Catch-22” used to label any simple hitch or problem rather than thissort of circular predicament: you can’t get published unti...

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catched vs caught

<p>Caught is the past tense of the word, catch which means to seize or capture someone or something.</p><pre>"It takes a thief to catch a thief."</pre><p>Catched is an incorrect word attempted at c...

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caucasian

“Caucasian” is an outdated term originally used to refer to some or all of the people of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Central and South Asia. It was invented by in the early 19th c...

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cd-rom disk vs cd-rom

“CD-ROM” stands for “compact disc, read-only memory,” so adding another“disc” or “disk” is redundant. The same goes for “DVD” (from “DigitalVideo Disc” or “Digital Versatile Disc"”—there are non-vi...

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ceasar vs caesar

<p>Whether you are looking to spell "Julius Caesar" or "ceasar salad", "caeser" is the correct spelling. The spelling is very counterintuitive to its pronunciation but this needs to be memorized. C...

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cease the day vs seize the day

The classical Latin phrase carpe diem—usually translated as “seize the day”—means “act now,” “there’s no time like the present.”It has to do not with ceasing, but with acting.

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celibate vs chaste

Believe it or not, you can be celibate without being chaste, and chaste withoutbeing celibate. A celibate person is merely unmarried, usually (but not always)because of a vow of celibacy. The tradi...

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celtic

Because the Boston Celtics basketball team pronounces its name as if it began with an S, Americans are prone to use this pronunciation of the word as it applies to the Bretons, Cornish, Welsh, Iris...

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cement vs concrete

People in the building trades distinguish cement (the gray powder thatcomes in bags) from concrete (the combination of cement, water, sand,and gravel which becomes hard enough in your driveway to d...

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censor vs censure vs sensor vs censer

To censor somebody’s speech or writing is to try to suppress it by preventing it from reaching the public. When guests on network TV utter obscenities, broadcasters practice censorship by bleeping ...

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center around vs center on, revolve around

Two perfectly good expressions—“center on” and “revolve around”—get conflated in this nonsensical neologism. When a speaker says his address will “center around the topic of” whatever, my interest ...

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cents

On a sign displaying a cost of twenty-nine cents for something the pricecan be written as “.29,” as “$.29,” or as “29¢,” but don’t combine thetwo forms. “.29¢” makes no sense, and “$.29¢” is worse.

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ceremonial vs ceremonious

“Ceremonial” and “ceremonious” are often considered synonyms, and can indeed be used interchangeably in many contexts. But there are some cases in which one is better than the other.If you are talk...

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chai tea vs chai

Chai is simply the word for “tea” in Hindi and several otherAsian languages. The spicy, milky variety known in India as masala chai is called “chai” in the US Since Americans likely to be attracted...

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chaise longue

When English speakers want to be elegant they commonly resort to French, often mangling it in the process. The entrée, the dish served before the plat, usurped the latter’s position as main dish. A...

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chalk-full vs chock-full, chuck-full

Originally a person or thing stuffed to the point of choking was “choke-full.” In modern speech this expression has become “chock-full,” or in less formal American English, “chuck-full.” Chalk has ...

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champaign vs champagne

Champaign is the name of a city and county in Illinois. Champagne is a region of France that produces the sparkling wine of this name.

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chauvinist vs male chauvinist, sexist

Nicolas Chauvin of Rochefort became a laughingstock in Napoleon’s army for his exaggerated nationalism, and his name gave rise to the term “chauvinism,” which characterizes people who wildly overes...

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check vs czech

Pronounce the name of the country which broke away from the former Czechoslovakia to form the Czech Republic as “check,” but don’t spell it that way. Its citizens are Czechs.

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chemicals

Markets offering “” produce claim it has been raised “without chemicals.” News stories fret about “chemicals in our water supply.” This common error in usage indicates quite clearly the lamentable ...

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chicano vs latino vs hispanic

“Chicano” means “Mexican-American,” and not all the people denoted bythis term like it. When speaking of people living in the US from various otherSpanish-speaking countries, “Chicano” is an error ...

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choose vs chose

<p>Choose is an irregular verb which simply means to pick one thing over the other.</p> <pre>"I have told you times without number that I'll choose money over women."</pre> <p>Chose is the past t...

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chrispy vs crispy

style="text-decoration:none"There are a lot of menus, signs, and recipes out there featuring “chrispy chicken.” Is this misspelling influenced by the “CH” in “chicken” or the pattern in other commo...

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chunk vs chuck

In casual conversation, you may get by with saying “Chuck [throw] me that monkey wrench, will you?” But you will mark yourself as illiterate beyond mere casualness by saying instead “Chunk me that ...

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church

Catholics routinely refer to their church as the Church, with a capital“C.” This irritates the members of other churches, but is standardusage. When “Church” stands by itself (that is, not as part ...

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cite vs site vs sight

You cite the author in an endnote; you visit a Web site or the site of the crime, and you sight your beloved running toward you in slow motion on the beach (a sight for sore eyes!).

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classic vs classical vs

“Classical” usually describes things from ancient Greece or Rome, or things from analogous ancient periods like classical Sanskrit poetry. The exception is classical music, which in the narrow sens...

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cleanup vs clean up

<p>Cleanup is used to describe the act of cleaning or tidying up a place or location.</p><pre>"Be sure to cleanup the house before my return."</pre><p>Clean up is a phrase that attempts to mean the...

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clench vs clinch

“Clench” and “clinch” are related words, but they are not interchangeable. You clench a fist or teeth.You clinch a deal or a victory. A reliable person comes through in the clinch. Bent-over nails ...

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click vs clique

Students lamenting the division of their schools into snobbish factions often misspell “clique” as “click.” In the original French, “clique” was synonymous with “claque”—an organized group of suppo...

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climactic vs climatic

“Climactic” and “anticlimactic” have to do with climaxes, “climatic” with climate. There is no such word as “anticlimatic.”

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closed-minded vs close-minded

“Closed-minded” might seem logical, but the traditional spelling of this expression is “close-minded.” The same is true for “close-lipped” and “close-mouthed.”

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close vs clothes

Because the TH in “clothes” is seldom pronounced distinctly, it is often misspelled “close.” Just remember the TH in “clothing,” where it is obvious. Clothes are made of cloth. Rags can also be clo...

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coarse vs course

<p>Coarse refers to an object composed of large parts or particles of inferior quality/appearance with a rough, blunt surface.</p><pre>"His teacher described his character as coarse and unrefined."...

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coiffeur vs coiffure

The guy who does your hair is a “coiffeur,” just as the person who drives a car is a “chauffeur,” and a restaurant owner is a “restaurateur.” The -eur suffix occurs regularly in occupation names wh...

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cold slaw vs cole slaw

The popular salad made of shredded cabbage was originally “cole slaw,” from the Dutch for “cabbage salad.” Because it is served cold, Americans have long supposed the correct spelling to be “cold s...

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collaborate vs corroborate

People who work together on a project collaborate (share their labor); people who support your testimony as a witness corroborate (strengthen by confirming) it.

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collage vs college

You can paste together bits of paper to make a collage, but the institution of higher education is a college.

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collective plural

In UK English it is common to see statements like “Parliament have raised many questions about the proposal” in which because Parliament is made up of many individuals, several of whom are raising ...

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colombia vs columbia

<p>Colombia is a South American country with over 45 million inhabitants and a taste for spectacular coffee and assorted flowers. Pablo Escobar used to be a citizen before his death. They have cont...

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colons vs semicolons

<p>Colons is the plural of the word, colon which means a punctuation mark denoted by (:). It could also refer to the part of the large intestine, a part of the final segment of the digestive system...

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coma vs comma

<p>Coma is a state of sleep from which one may not wake up, usually induced by some form of trauma.</p><p>"The accident victim has been in coma for three months now."</p><p>Comma is a punctuation m...

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come with

In some American dialects it is common to use the phrase “come with” without specifying with whom, as in “We’re going to the bar. Want to come with?” This sounds distinctly odd to the majority of p...

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commas

What follows is not a comprehensive guide to the many uses of commas, but a quick tour of the most common errors involving them.The first thing to note is that the comma often marks a brief pause i...

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compare and contrast vs compare

”compare and contrastHey kids, here’s a chance to catch your English teacher in a redundancy! To compare two things is to note their similarities and their differences. There’s no need to add “and ...

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compare to vs compare with

These are sometimes interchangeable, but when you are stressingsimilarities between the items compared, the most common word is “to”:“She compared his home-made wine to toxic waste.” If you are exa...

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complement vs compliment

Originally these two spellings were used interchangeably, but they havecome to be distinguished from each other in modern times. Most of thetime the word people intend is “compliment": nice things ...

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complementary vs complimentary

<p>Complementary refers to a situation where something is combined with another element to make a whole. It is perceived to be a harmonious or desirable partner for one another.</p><pre>"Male and F...

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comprised of vs composed of

Although “comprise” is used primarily to mean “to include,” it is alsooften stretched to mean “is made up of”—a meaning that some criticsobject to. The most cautious route is to avoid using “of” af...

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concensus vs consensus

There is a consensus among English gurus that we should not misspell "consensus" as "concensus". "Consensus" is derived form the word "sense" and therefore there is an "s" and not a "c". "Concens...

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concerning vs worrisome, troubling

People commonly say of things that are a cause for concern that they are “concerning”: “My boyfriend’s affection for his pet rattlesnake is concerning.” This is not standard English. There are many...

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concerted effort

One cannot make a “concerted effort” all by one’s self. To work “in concert” is to work together with others. One can, however, make a concentrated effort. The prefix “con-” means “with.”

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confident vs confidant vs confidante

In modern English “confident’ is almost always an adjective. Having studied for a test you feel confident about passing it. You’re in a confident frame of mind. This spelling is often misused as a ...

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conflicted vs conflicting feelings

Phrases like “conflicted feelings” or “I feel conflicted” are consideredjargon by many, and out of place in formal writing. Use “I haveconflicting feelings” instead, or write “I feel ambivalent.”

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confusionism vs confucianism

Confucius is the founder of Confucianism. His name is not spelled “Confucious,” and his philosophy is not called “Confusionism.” When you spot the confusion in the latter term, change it quickly to...

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congradulations vs congratulations

<p>Congratulations is used to express joy and fulfillment at something someone has done.</p><pre>"Dave congratulated his friend on the completion of his new office complex."</pre><p>Congradulations...

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connote vs denote

The literal meaning of a word is its denotation; the broader associations we have with a word are its connotations. People who depend on a thesaurus or a computer translation engine to find synonym...

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conscience, conscious, consciousness

Your conscience makes you feel guilty when you do bad things, but your consciousness is your awareness. If you are awake, you are conscious. Although it is possible to speak of your “conscious mind...

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conservativism vs conservatism

<p>Conservatism is a political philosophy that advocates for traditional values, norms, customs and traditions. It could also mean a risk-averse attitude or approach to situations.</p><pre>"The Pre...

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continual vs continuous

“Continuous” refers to actions which are uninterrupted: “My upstairs neighbor played his stereo continuously from 6:00 PM to 3:30 AM.” Continual actions, however, need not be uninterrupted, only re...

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contrary vs contrast

The phrases “on the contrary” and “to the contrary” are used to reply to an opposing point. Your friend tells you she is moving to New York and you express surprise because you thought she hated bi...

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conversate vs converse

<p>When we have a demonstration, we demonstrate. So when we have a conversation, do we conversate? No, I’m afraid not. In the case of a conversation, what we do is converse with each other.</p><p> ...

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copywrite vs copyright

You can copyright writing, but you can also copyright a photograph or song. The word has to do with securing rights. Thus, there is no such word as “copywritten”; it’s “copyrighted.”

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coronate vs crown

A person is crowned, not coronated. “Coronate” is improperly derived from “coronation,” but “crown” is the original and still standard form of the verb.But don’t be in too big a hurry to declare th...

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company names with apostrophes

Some company names which have a possessive form use an apostrophe before the S and some don’t: “McDonald’s” does and “Starbucks” doesn’t. “Macy’s” idiosyncratically uses a star for its apostrophe. ...

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costumer vs customer

<p>Costumer is a person who makes, sells or rents clothing out to others for parties, theatrical performances and for movies.</p><pre>"Mother plans to rent a Spiderman suit from a costumer for my B...

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could give a damn vs couldn’t give a damn

If you don’t care at all about something, the standard popular expression is “I couldn’t give a damn.” People often say instead “I could give a damn,” which should logically mean they care. Note th...

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council vs counsel vs consul

The first two words are pronounced the same but have distinct meanings. An official group that deliberates, like the Council on Foreign Relations, is a “council”; all the rest are “counsels”: your ...

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couple vs couple of

Instead of “she went with a couple sleazy guys before she met me,” write"a couple of guys” if you are trying to sound a bit more formal. Leavingthe “of” out is a casual, slangy pattern.

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cowtow vs kowtow

<p>Kowtow is the submissive act of bowing deeply and kneeling low enough to touch one's forehead to the ground.</p><pre>"What insolence! The client's wife expects me to kowtow in her presence."</pr...

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cracker jacks vs cracker jack

“Crackerjack” is an old slang expression meaning “excellent,” and the official name of the popcorn confection is also singular: “Cracker Jack.” People don’t pluralize its rival Poppycock as “Poppyc...

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crafts

When referring to vehicles, “craft” is both singular and plural. Two aircraft, many watercraft, etc. Do not add an “S.”But when referring to hobbies and skills such as “woodcrafts” or “arts and cra...

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credible vs credulous

“Credible” means “believable” or “trustworthy.” It is also used in amore abstract sense, meaning something like “worthy”: “She made acredible lyric soprano.” Don’t confuse “credible” with “credulou...

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creeped vs crept

<p>Crept is the past tense of creep, which means to move slowly and stealthily.</p><pre>"He crept out of the room without being seen."</pre><p>Creeped is commonly used wrongly as the past tense bec...

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crescendo vs climax

When something is growing louder or more intense, it is going through acrescendo (from an Italian word meaning “growing”). Traditionalistsobject to its use when you mean “climax.” A crescendo of ch...

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crevice vs crevasse

<p>Crevice is known as a fracture or split caused by nature on a rock surface.</p><pre>"We noticed a crevice on &nbsp;the huge rock while hiking."</pre><p>Crevasse on the other hand is a deep fract...

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crick vs creek

<p>Crick is a painful muscular cramp or spasm of some part of the body like the neck and back making it difficult to move the part affected.</p><p>Creek is a small inlet or bay narrow and extending...

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criteria vs criterion

There are several words with Latin or Greek roots whose plural forms ending in A are constantly mistaken for singular ones. See, for instance, and . You can have one criterion or many criteria. Don...

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criticism

Beginning literature or art history students are often surprised tolearn that in such contexts “criticism” can be a neutral term meaningsimply “evaluating a work of literature or art.” A criticalar...

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critique vs criticize

A critique is a detailed evaluation of something. The formal way torequest one is “give me your critique,” though people often sayinformally “critique this"—meaning “evaluate it thoroughly.” But"cr...

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crochet vs crotchet vs crotchety

Although all of these words derive from a common ancestor meaning “hook” and are related to “crook,” they have taken on different meanings in modern English. Those who do needlework with a crochet ...

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croissant

The fanciful legend which attributes the creation of the croissant to Christian bakers celebrating a 17th-century victory over the Turks is widely recounted but almost certainly untrue, since there...

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crowbar vs wrecking bar

A crowbar is a straight bar with one end only slightly bent and sharpened into a beak. Often the beak is split, giving the tool its name from its resemblance to a crow’s foot. The tool with the muc...

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crucifiction vs crucifixion

One might suppose that this common misspelling was a product of skepticism were it not for the fact that it most often occurs in the writings of believers. The word should make clear that Jesus was...

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crucifix vs cross

A crucifix is a cross with an image of the crucified Christ affixed to it. Reporters often mistakenly refer to someone wearing a “crucifix” when the object involved is an empty cross. Crucifixes ar...

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cue vs queue

<p>Cue and queue are two words that are, surprisingly, pronounced exactly the same. A cue is a sign or signal, an indication that something should happen. </p><pre>“Carlos took Maria’s nod as a cue...

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currant vs current

“Current” is an adjective having to do with the present time, and can also be a noun naming a thing that, like time, flows: electrical current, currents of public opinion. “Currant” refers only to ...

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curve your appetite vs curb your appetite

A “curb” was originally a device used to control an unruly horse. Already in the 18th century people were speaking by analogy of controlling their appetites as “curbing” them. You do not “curve” yo...

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cut and paste vs copy and paste

Because “cut and paste” is a familiar phrase, many people say it whenthey mean “copy and paste” in a computer context. This can lead todisastrous results if followed literally by an inexpert person...

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cut and dry vs cut and dried

Many people mishear the standard expression meaning “set,” “not open to change,” as “cut and dry.” Although this form is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, it is definitely less common in sop...

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cut of tea vs cup of tea

An astounding number of people write “cut of tea” when they mean “cup of tea,” especially in phrases like “not my cut of tea” instead of “not my cup of tea.” This saying is not about fine distincti...

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chute vs shoot

<p>Chute is a trough or tube through which objects are made to slide from a higher to a lower level.</p><pre>"The girls want to go on the chute at the amusement park."</pre><p>Shoot means to fire a...

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