Spelling, Vocabulary, and Confusing Words
Many words in English sound or look alike, causing confusion and not a few headaches. This section lists some of these words, and other troublemakers.
Naval: pertaining to ships; nautical.
Navel: belly button.
NEITHER … OR
As a conjunction, neither often teams with nor: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." The rule many learned in fifth grade was, "Neither … nor, either … or, but never neither … or."
Neither … or is another once-unthinkable faux pas gaining momentum among people who ought to know better. A political adviser's resignation letter read, "This position is not a fit for me, neither personally or professionally." (Make it "either.")
A big-city newspaper editor wrote, "I neither commissioned or approved it." Even editors need editors.
See knew, new.
See all-time record.
Note the double s.
Nonplussed is widely misused as a synonym for cool or unfazed: Despite his anxiety, he appeared nonplussed. Clearly, the writer meant nonchalant. nonplussed means the opposite: "confused," "thrown off." His strange behavior left her nonplussed.
See neither … or.
A critic wrote: "Burgess gained notoriety with his wildly popular children's books." Another oft-abused word, notoriety has somehow become a good thing. But can't you hear the notorious in notoriety? There are all kinds of fame; notoriety is one of the bad kinds, just down the pike from infamy. This is a word best reserved for describing the world's scoundrels.
See amount, number.