These similar-looking words have dissimilar meanings. Make sure you’re using the right one in each pair.
1. Amused/bemused: To be amused is to be entertained; to be bemused is to be confused.
2. Appraise/apprise: To appraise is to evaluate; to apprise is to inform.
3. Ascribe/subscribe: To ascribe is to attach an idea to a source; to subscribe is to hold belief in an idea.
4. Attain/obtain: To attain is to reach; to obtain is to acquire.
5. Barter/haggle: To barter is to trade; to haggle is to negotiate.
6. Born/borne: To be born is to be brought forth; to be borne is to be carried along.
7. Borrow/loan: To borrow is to receive something for temporary use; to loan is to provide something on those terms.
8. Careen/career: To careen is to lean over to one side or to sway; to career is to hurry carelessly. (And to carom is to ricochet.)
9. Censor/censure: To censor is to ban; to censure is to reprimand.
10. Criticize/critique: To criticize is to judge harshly or in a negative manner; to critique is to evaluate.
11. Denigrate/deprecate: To denigrate is to defame or belittle; to deprecate is to disapprove or deemphasize (but can also, like denigrate, mean to disparage).
12. Differ/vary: To differ is to disagree or to be distinct from; to vary is to change (although differ can also refer to variation).
13. Espouse/expound: To espouse is to support; to expound means to state, explain, or defend (which is also distinct from the phrase “expand on,” which means to provide additional or digressive details).
14. Rebut/refute: To rebut is to argue in response to another argument; to refute is to deny an argument.
15. Wangle/wrangle: To wangle is to obtain by underhanded means; to wrangle is to wrestle.
A version of this post originally ran on DailyWritingTips.com.