Sunday, May 11, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 30)

There are still quite a few more words that are often misused by writers. Here are some more:

Discrete vs. discreet

Wrong: We have to be discrete about it.
Right: We have to be discreet about it.

Discreet means to be circumspect or prudent, while discrete means distinct or separate. If you see friends pairing off into discrete couples at a party, you might want to be discreet about whom you tell.

Biweekly vs. semiweekly / bimonthly vs. semimonthly / biannual vs. semiannual

Wrong: Do you have both of this week’s biweekly reports ready?
Right: Do you have both of this week’s semiweekly reports ready?

I often see biweekly used incorrectly for semiweekly. The prefix “bi” means two (bicycle literally means “two wheels”), while “semi” means half. When referring to something that happens every other week, say biweekly. But if it occurs two times a week (once every half-week), use semiweekly. If you can’t remember the distinction, you can always say twice-weekly or twice a week. Bimonthly/semimonthly and biannual/semiannual work the same way.

Keep checking back for more words next time.


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