“Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak, and to speak well, are two things.” ~ Ben Jonson (English playwright and poet)

From emails to news articles and Instagram captions to tweets, if there's an error in there, someone's going to notice it and worse, remark on it. Often, common writing errors are made because the writer was in a hurry and did not proofread the work. The errors that take place due to this are most often misspellings and mix ups between homophones - words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings and spellings. We are all susceptible to language slip-ups; what matters is being able to recognise and rectify our errors.

In the wake of last time’s list of curated words that are easily misunderstood for one another, this week we bring you more such words. Take a look.

1. Loose vs. Lose

‘Loose’ is an adjective that means something that is not fixed tightly or a garment that does not fit tightly.
E.g., The dress is too loose on you.

‘Lose’ is a verb that means the opposite of ‘win’.
E.g., How did you lose your watch?

2. Principal vs. Principle

‘Principal’ can be both a noun and an adjective.
Principal as a noun refers to a person in charge of an organization.
E.g., The principal wants to meet you. Principal as an adjective means “highly important”.
E.g., The principal wants to meet you.

A ‘principle’ is a firmly-held belief.
E.g., I can not do this. It is against my principles.

3. Practice vs. Practise

Both ‘practice’ and ‘practise’ mean a habit, the repetition of an activity to improve a skill or to pursue a career especially in law, fine arts and medicine. So why two spellings? It comes down to British versus American spelling. In British English, ‘practise’ is a verb and ‘practice’ is a noun. American English uses ‘practice’ as both the noun and verb form.
As a noun, ‘practice’ means a habit or custom or repeated exercise to acquire a skill.
E.g., The doctor’s practice seems to be taking off well. (This is used by both American and British English)

In American English, practice is also used as the verb. In British English, the verb form of the word is ‘practise’.
E.g., He has been practising medicine for 5 years.

4. Improve vs. Improvise

‘Improve’ is a verb that means make or become better.
E.g., I have started watching French movies to improve my French.
E.g., I have started watching French movies to improve my French.

‘Improvise’ is a verb that means performing a task without any prior preparation.
E.g., Jim Carrey’s ability to improvise onstage is second to none.

5. Reply vs. Revert

‘Reply’ is used as a verb when answering in speech or writing to what someone has said or written.
E.g., I will reply to your email.
'Revert' is a verb which means to go back to a previous state.
E.g., Shankar has reverted to his drinking habits again.
P.S: Technically, nobody can actually revert to an email. So, avoid using it in your emails.
P.S 2: ‘Revert’ already means to go back to something. So ‘revert back’ is incorrect. That’s like saying “...to go back back…”.

6. Watch vs. Look vs. See

You can “see” something even if you don’t want to, but we can only “look at” something on purpose. To watch is to observe attentively over a period of time.
E.g., Stop looking at my diary.
I like to watch the snow fall.
I don’t play cricket, but I see people playing it every day.

7. Literally vs. Figuratively

‘Figuratively’ is an adverb of the adjective figurative that means “of the nature of or involving a figure of speech.” It’s typically metaphorical and not literal.
E.g., The puppy’s cuteness figuratively melted everyone around it.

‘Literally’ means in a literal or real manner or sense.
E.g., It’s 40 degrees here and I’m literally melting!

8. Lie vs. Lay

‘Lay’ is a verb that commonly means “to put or set something down.” E.g., Please lay the luggage down on the table for now.

Lie’ is a verb that commonly means “to be in or to assume a horizontal position” or “to make an untrue statement”.
E.g., Please lie down on the bed; you don’t look too well.

9. A Lot vs. Allot

"A lot" refers to excess of something and is always spelled as two words. "Allot" means to give or apportion something to someone as a share or task. It can also mean appropriate for a special purpose.
E.g., That was a lot to digest for me.
I have allotted the seats to the students for tomorrow’s examination .

10. All together vs Altogether

‘Altogether’ means “completely,” “all things considered,” or “on the whole.” E.g., Put your clothes all together in a pile.

‘All together’ means “everyone together” or “everything together.”
E.g., The sati system was altogether abolished in 1829.


Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


Stay tuned to know what's next in our ‘Vocabulary Matters’ series and join our community - Because Learning Matters to get your weekly vocabulary dose!