Commonly confused words, vol. 2

1: Flush Out/Flesh Out
Question:
To provide more details, should you flush out or flesh out your plan?
Answer:
Flesh out
How to remember it:
Think of fleshing out a skeleton. To flesh out something is to give it substance, or to make it fuller or more nearly complete.
To flush out something is to cause it to leave a hiding place, e. g., “The birds were flushed out of the tree.” It can also be used figuratively, as in “flush out the truth.”

#2: Compliment/Complement
Question:
Do your shoes compliment or complement your outfit?
Answer:
Complement
How to remember it:
If one thing complements (with an “e”) another, it completes that thing (e. g., the shoes complete your outfit, or make it perfect). Complement comes from the Latin word for complete.
If you compliment something, you express admiration for it.
And when something is given free as a courtesy or

favor, it’s complimentary.

#3: Proceed/Precede
Question:
Do the appetizers precede or proceed the main course?
Answer:
Precede
How to remember it:
Consider the prefix, pre-. It means “earlier than,” or “before” – as we can see in a phrase like preexisting condition, or in the word prefix itself.
To precede is to go or come before, or to be earlier than.
The root of proceed means “to go forward,” a meaning we can see in a sentence like “Let’s now proceed with the meal.”

#4: Accept/Except
Question:
He does nothing accept or except complain?
Answer:
Except
How to remember it:
Keep in mind the link between except and exception.
In an example like the one above, except introduces the only thing not referred to by the previous statement – in other words, it introduces an exception.

#5: Than/Then
Question:
Is this room hotter than or then a sauna?
Answer:
Than
How to remember it:
Use then only when you’re talking about sequences and time, e. g., “First we’ll go here, then we’ll go there.”
When you’re comparing things, as in the example above, use than. (If it helps, consider that than, like compare, has an “a.”)

#6: Tortuous/Torturous
Question:
Is an overly-elaborate plan best described as torturous or tortuous?
Answer:
Tortuous
How to remember it:
Torturous (with a second “r”) really does suggest torture, the word it comes from. It’s reserved for things that are very unpleasant, painful, difficult, or slow.
But something that is tricky, complicated, or circuitous – such as an overly elaborate plan – is tortuous. Think of twists and turns, and consider a related word: torque, which refers to a force that causes something to rotate.

#7: Imminent/Eminent
Question:
Is danger imminent or eminent?
Answer:
Imminent
How to remember it:
Think of the first syllables of immediately and imminent to remember that imminent means “about to occur” – often in a threatening sense.
Eminent means “prominent” or “famous.”
As it happens, these words have a shared root: – minent comes from a Latin word meaning “to project” or “to stand out.” In imminent, this root originally suggested something like a threatening overhang above your head; in eminent it suggested something conspicuous.

#8: Discrete/Discreet
Question:
Does the process involve a number of discrete or discreet steps?
Answer:
Discrete
How to remember it:
Try this one: “discrete” means “separate” – so picture the letter “e,” divided from its twin in both discrete and separate.
Discreet has an entirely different meaning: it’s often used to describe something not likely to be seen or noticed (e. g., “He made discreet inquiries about the job”).



Commonly confused words, vol. 2