“Since writing my previous article on “Words to Start Spelling Correctly,” I’ve keep a list of misspellings I’ve come across while editing. I’ve gathered enough to write about, so here are more common misspellings, some of which are homophones (words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings), and tricks to help remember the differences!
Ensure vs. Insure
This one in particular seems to be tricky since a lot of people will argue that they are interchangeable, but the most agree that the best practice is to use ensure when you mean make sure. “Can you ensure that my daughter will be safe in your care?” Insure, on the other hand, deals with financial security. “I insure my car through Allstate Insurance.” Perhaps a good way to remember that insure refers to things like car and house insurance is to ask yourself, thanks to Allstate, “Are you in good hands?”
Complement vs. Compliment
Complement can be a noun or a verb and refers to completion or betterment, whether it’s something that makes something else complete or the act of completing or bettering something. “I’m buying this scarf as a complement to my coat.” “The shoes complement the purse.” Compliment can also be a noun or a verb and makes us all feel better! “He paid you such a nice compliment when he noticed your haircut!” “I complimented him on his becoming a doctor.” To remember complement, think of complete, and for compliment, remember that it’s all about me, or, in this case, I.
Everyday vs. Every day
Everyday is an adjective meaning that something is common, ordinary, or used almost every day (note that this is two words here). “These are my everyday dishes, but those in the cabinet are for special occasions.” Every day as two words is an adjective modifying a noun and means what it says: every day, each day. “I eat an apple every day.” “Every day that I drive to work, I end up behind a school bus.” If you can substitute each day (which is two words), then use every day (also two words), but if you can substitute ordinary (one word), use everyday (also one word).
Elicit vs. Illicit
Elicit is a verb and means to draw out something. “His proposal elicited a response from her, but not the one he was expecting.” “Her poem elicits feelings of glee and giddiness.” Illicit, on the other hand, is an adjective that refers to something illegal or immoral. “He was carrying illicit drugs when the cops stopped him.” “His illicit behavior resulted in his suspension from school.” If you can substitute evoke, then elicit is correct! And to remember illicit, keep in mind that illicit things tend to be illegal.
Wonder vs. Wander
Both a noun and a verb, wonder has to do with surprise or curiosity. “That girl is a wonder.” “I wonder where I will be in ten years.” Wander is also a noun and a verb that can mean stroll, roam, and stray. “I like a nice wander through the fields in the morning.” “Cindy always wanders off when we go to the grocery store.” To help, remember that feeling surprised often elicits (see!) the uttered gasp of “Oh!” and wonder is spelled with an o. “Oh my! I wonder how she does that.”
What other words do you struggle with? Leave a comment below!