Commonly misunderstood words that trip up writers
They sound similar and even share similar meanings—and that’s what makes these words so dangerous.
Well, this column is about words with definitions that are continually misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misconstrued. They are the middle schoolers of our lexicon.
Arbitration means a third party listens to evidence from all parties and hands down a decision. Example: “The contract called for arbitration by a federal judge.”
Mediation means a third party listens to the evidence from all parties and brings them to an agreement. Example: “The plaintiff agreed to try mediation one last time.”
Carat, caret, karat
Carat is a unit of weight for precious stones, equal to 200 milligrams. Example: “Can you measure rhinestones in carats?”
A caret is a V-shape proofreader’s symbol indicating something is to be inserted. Example: “Carets should be placed within the text, not in the margin.”
Karat is the proportion of gold used with an alloy. Example: “Pure gold is 24 karat.”
Capital is the city where the seat of government is located; also money, equipment, or property. Examples: “Austin is the capital of Texas,” or, “To start our own communications firm, we need to raise capital.”
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