7 more perplexing word combinations

Are you mixing up ‘incredulous’ and ‘incredible?’ If so, you’re not alone. See if you can navigate these sound-alike terms that trip up even veteran writers.

Continuing our look at confusing word pairs, here are a few more to pay attention to. Don’t let these trip you up.

1. Garnish and garner

Garnish—to decorate or embellish; to decorate food.

I never know if you’re supposed to eat the garnish.

Garner—to gather, collect or accumulate; to gather into storage.

We garnered our books and created a library of science fiction and 19th-century literature.

2. Incredible and incredulous

Incredible—difficult or impossible to believe; astonishing.

The number of roadblocks we’ve experienced with this project is incredible.

Incredulous—skeptical; unwilling or unable to believe in something.

If I told you what actually happened, you would be incredulous.

3. Jerry-built and jury rig

Jerry-built—built cheaply and quickly.

Jake jerry-built the treehouse in two days.

Jury rig (can also be jerry rig)—built for temporary use.

Three years later, we’re still using their jury-rigged content management system.

4. Meteor, meteoroid, meteorite

Meteor—the flash of light in the night sky when a small chunk of interplanetary debris burns up in the atmosphere.

It’s never dark enough in the city to see meteors.

Meteoroid—a small chunk of interplanetary debris that burns up before it reaches Earth’s surface.

They lost track of the meteoroid over the Pacific.

Meteorite—any part of a meteoroid that survives the fall through the atmosphere and lands on Earth.

We searched the canyon for meteorites, but found only ordinary rocks.

5. Prosperity and posterity

Prosperity—the state of being successful or wealthy.

Helena had finally learned to be grateful for her prosperity.

Posterity—people in the future; future generations.

I’m setting aside my books for posterity.

6. Precedence and precedent

Precedence—being given or receiving priority treatment because of preeminence or superiority; the state of preceding in importance or priority.

For someone who says she doesn’t care about precedence, Julia always insists upon letting the elders go first.

Precedent—a similar action or event that happened at an earlier time; a past action that can be used as an example or rule to be followed in the future.

The judge was prepared to set a precedent with this case.

7. Seasonable and seasonal

Seasonable—in keeping with the time or the season; suitable for a particular time of year.

We’ve been enjoying very seasonable weather.

Seasonal—related to or dependent on a particular season.

Most students at my high school have seasonal jobs as lifeguards.

Ragan readers, do you have any other word pairs to add to the list?

Laura Hale Brockway is writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work on at impertinentremarks.

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