Grammar Grief

By, Jessica Knutzon


When One Letter Makes A Difference

When writing it is easy to confuse words that differ by only one letter. Below are a few examples of words that have little similar spellings but different meanings.

Everyday vs Every Day

These are often confused and some people choose to not use every day at all. Everyday implies that the event is a normal occurrence and every day means that the event or topic happens every single day. This can be confusing, but when in doubt, just remember that if the word single works between every and day, make sure to use the two word version and not the compound word. For example: Getting stuck in traffic in Los Angeles is an everyday issue. Living in Los Angeles can be stressful because I am stuck in traffic every day.

Empathy vs Sympathy

Yes, these are two letters in difference, however these words are often confused because they sound similar and have some parallels in definition. Empathy, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary means, “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” Sympathy, on the other hand, means “the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.: a sympathetic feeling.” If searching for the correct word, think about what emotion is being represented. If there is pity or sadness, it is going to be sympathy. If it is an understanding of a feeling, but not necessarily sadness or pity, then it is empathy. For example: Henry empathizes with Mary’s exhaustion because he has also spent many hours studying for a difficult class. Henry felt sympathy for Mary when her dog was ill and she was sad.

Desert vs Dessert

These are two very different words that are often mistaken for each other because of the extra ‘s.’ Desert is dry terrain and dessert is the (often) sweet ending of a meal. When in doubt, just remember that dessert has the extra ‘s’ because dessert is so good, you often want a second serving. For example: Phoenix is in the desert. After dinner we ate cake for dessert.


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