Commonly confused words: What a difference one letter can make

Is it appraise or apprise? Jibe or jive? How to remember the differences among these similarly-spelled words.

Most words of similar spelling cause us no trouble at all—like filter and falter, or tent and tint. So what can explain why certain other words cause the same problems for some of us—over and over and over again?

Here are several pairs of words that are spelled almost exactly the same except for a single letter—and that single letter is enough to keep even the best editors on their toes and forever reaching for their dictionaries.

Complement, compliment

When you wish to praise someone, you give that person a compliment, or you compliment him or her. You offer complimentary words.

In contrast, complement means—among its several definitions—to bring something to completion or perfection.

The yellow sofa was the ideal complement to the brown carpeting.

Or: The yellow sofa complemented the brown carpeting.

Sammy’s bass playing complemented the sounds of the guitar and saxophone.

When you find yourself struggling to remember which is which, imagine that the first e in complement stands for enhance, and that should help you keep these homophones straight

Appraise, apprise

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