Commonly confused sound-alike words: Vol. Q-R

The latest installment in this series about verbal cousins whose meanings, spellings and pronunciations can confound writers and speakers alike.

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My cumulative list of “words commonly confused” continues with 10 that begin with the letters Q and R. The confusion relates to spelling or meaning.

1. quote/quotation

Traditionally, quote is a verb and quotation is a noun:

May I quote you on that? (verb)

I used a quotation from Dr. Johnson as an epigraph. (noun)

The Chicago Manual of Style includes a note on these words in the “Good usage versus common usage section,” apparently preferring to preserve the distinction in formal writing.

The CMS note also suggests that a difference may exist in the minds of some writers between quote as a noun and quotation as a noun:

quotes: contemporary remarks usable in their writing.

: wisdom of the ages expressed pithily.

2. quiet/quite

This is a spelling problem for speakers who aren’t in the habit of looking closely at words.

Quiet functions as noun, adjective and verb:

In the old days, librarians insisted on absolute quiet from the patrons. (noun)

Parents often worry when their children are excessively quiet. (adjective)

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