Commonly confused sound-alike words: Vols. I, J, K and L

This installment on word pairs that confound many writers and speakers spans four letters, instead of the usual two. You’re welcome.

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When people mishear or misinterpret similar words, they tend to pass those errors along.

Some are so prevalent that they invariably catch the eyes of alert writers and editors. Others creep stealthily into text, silently snickering as they wait, poised to damage scribes’ credibility.

Be watchful for these lurking menaces:

1. illicit/elicit

Illicit is an adjective meaning, “not allowed by law or social conventions.” Elicit is a verb meaning, “to draw out a reply or reaction.”

2. imply/infer

Increasing numbers of speakers ignore the distinction between these words, but it remains a useful one. Imply is “to suggest indirectly.” Infer is “to draw a conclusion.”

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3. it’s/its

Despite the hundreds, perhaps thousands of explanations to be found on the Web regarding the difference between these two spellings, the mistake of writing it’s for its remains the most common written error of them all.

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