Monday, February 18, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 14)

Here are some more words I frequently see confused/misused:

Diffuse vs. defuse

Wrong: We need to diffuse the situation.
Right: We need to defuse the situation.

Diffuse has a number of meanings, but all are along the lines of spread out, scatter, or disseminate. In this context, defuse means to make less dangerous, tense, or embarrassing. A bomb is capable of diffusing debris throughout a blast zone, if someone doesn’t defuse it first.

Accept vs. except

Wrong: I except your proposal.
Right: I accept your proposal.

To accept is to take or receive something or someone (accept a package or accept a person into membership), or respond affirmatively (accept an invitation). Except means to exclude (“everyone except him”), or otherwise than (“everywhere except Tokyo”). One is inclusive while the other is exclusive. You might accept someone for who they are, except for one particular foible.

More next time.


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