Commonly misspelled words, part 1: Not ‘too’ hard ‘to’ learn.

There are many homonyms in English; words which sound the same but have different meanings and different spellings. Some are so common that we rarely need help to differentiate them, but sometimes people need a mnemonic to help tell them apart.

MnemonicContractions are a common variant of homonyms; if the apostrophe doesn’t indicate a possessive, such as “Samantha’s book,” then it’s a contraction. They can often be eliminated as a confusing homonym by simply expanding the contraction.

Here’s a list of some commonly mixed up words, accompanied by some quick mnemonics to help determine which one should be used where.

To: Expressing motion in the direction of (a particular location)
“She is going to Toronto.”
Too: (1) A higher degree than is desirable or possible; excessively. (2) Also.
“He had too much ice cream.” “Is she coming, too?”

Handy mnemonic: If it has a second ‘o’ that’s one ‘too’ many.


They’re: A contraction of ‘they are.’
They’re going to a restaurant.”
Their: Belonging to or associated with people or things previously mentioned.
“Where did they put their leftovers?”
There: In, at, or to that place or position, opposite of here.
“The leftovers are right there on the table.”

Handy mnemonic: ‘There’ has ‘here’ in it.


Weather: Atmospheric conditions at a particular time and place.
“The forecast of rainy weather may cause the event to be rescheduled.”
Whether: Expressing a doubt or choice between alternatives.
 “She’s trying to decide whether to go to the party, or finish her assignment.”

Handy mnemonic: ‘Whether’ expresses a question, and starts with ‘wh’ like other questions, what, where, which, why, who.


Breathe: The verb; to inhale and exhale.
“I can’t breathe.”
Breath: The noun; the air that is inhaled or exhaled.
“Take a deep breath.”

Handy mnemonic: The action of breathing is more ‘energetic’ than the breath itself, so it has an ‘e’ on the end.


You’re: A contraction of ‘you are.’
You’re going to have to practice more.”
Your: Belonging to the person or people that the speaker is addressing.
Your order is ready to be picked up.”

No mnemonic here, once you expand your contraction, you’re all set.


Desert: (1) A dry climatic zone, often sandy and barren.
“Surviving in a desert requires a large amount of water.”
(2) To leave or abandon a person, place or organization.
“Now is not the time to desert your family, when you need each other the most.”
Dessert: A sweet course consumed after a meal.
“She had chocolate cake for dessert.”

Handy mnemonic: Dessert is the one you would want two helpings of, so it has a double ‘s’. To desert something is to leave it on its own, so it just has one ‘s’. Like-wise, a desert is a barren place, so only one ‘s.’


I hope these are helpful to you either as a personal reference, or as a teaching aid. The internet is full of people who could probably use some help with these problem words, so pass it along. Enjoy, and write on.

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Word of the day: Mellifluous

(adj.)  /mɛˈlɪflʊəs/

To me, this word seems to almost describe itself, or at least fall into its own description. Its meaning is that of a sound which is pleasingly smooth or musical to hear. It also has some versatility as an adverb (mellifluously) or as a noun (mellifluousness). It is figuratively something ‘honey-like,’ or the sound of one who is ‘honey-tongued.’ Enjoy!

Her low, mellifluous voice always made me feel better.
I find ‘mellifluous’ to be a mellifluous word.

Certain words just roll mellifluously off the tongue.
She speaks with magnificent mellifluousness and charms her audience completely.

Etymology: Late 15th century, from late Latin mellifluus (from mel ‘honey’ + fluere ‘to flow’).

Word of the day: Luculent

(adj.)  /ˈluːkjʊl(ə)nt/

This is a great, but underutilized, word which describes something that is clearly expressed, often in reference to writing or speech. The secondary meaning was once the more prevalent one -that of something brightly shining or illuminated- but it has since given way to the rather more poetic figurative sense. It also has an adverbial form; luculently. May it help you luculently convey your thoughts.

Examples of use;
The author’s style demonstrates a luculent understanding of people’s lives.
The musical score was frequently discordant, but contained moments of luculent beauty.
Her luculent argument was complemented by her natural charisma.

The complex nature of the subject makes it almost impossible to speak of it luculently.
It is luculently apparent that this course of action is the correct one.

Etymology: Late Middle English. From Latin luculentus, from lux, luc- ‘light’.

Word of the day: Logomachy

(n.)  /ləˈɡɒməki/

Apropos to the subject matter of Cor Lingua, logomachy refers to an argument about words. The plural, also usable as a count noun, is logomachies. Use it well, and I hope you don’t get into any logomachies over it – unless you want to, of course.

Examples of use:
They got into quite the heated logomachy.
Her favourite thing to do is engage in logomachy.

It will eventually be settled, after many late-night logomachies.
Logomachies are common in literary circles.

Etymology: Mid 16th century. From Greek logomakhia, from ‘logos’ (word) + ‘makhia’ (fighting).