10 ‘troublesome twin’ words that threaten your writing

‘Flounder’ or ‘founder’? ‘Flesh out’ or ‘flush out’? Don’t worry; the grammar guides have figured it all out for the rest of us.

A senior project manager reports on LinkedIn that she once helped “flush out” a corporate security plan.

A funeral home offers to “flush out the details to create an event that touches everyone.”

In both cases, it should be flesh out, unless somebody ripped up the plan (or the funeral bulletin) and sent it spiraling down the toilet.

Common Errors in English Usage, DailyWritingTips and other grammar sites have compiled troves of misused words to help keep us straight. Here are a few of what one site calls “troublesome twins” (or in one case, triplets) to watch out for:

1. Flesh out vs. flush out.

The words are so similar, it’s easy to see why people confuse them. But as Common Errors points out, it helps to think literally—at least when it comes to flesh.

“To ‘flesh out’ an idea is to give it substance, as a sculptor adds clay flesh to a skeletal armature,” writes author Paul Brians. “To ‘flush out’ a criminal is to drive him or her out into the open.”

2. Flounder or founder?

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