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Commonly confused words in business communication

defer vs differ eminent vs imminent incite vs insight accede vs exceed

English is a wonderful language because it is inclusive and ever-evolving. As an Indo-European language, English has rapidly spread across the world. According to Ethnologue, as of 2019, English is the most-spoken language of the world with an estimated 1.13 billion people speaking the language.

English has emerged as not just the most widely spoken language, but also as the most widely accepted written language. Official and business documentation is primarily done in English, and it is therefore important that the use of the language is accurate and free of errors. Given the vastness of English vocabulary, we are sometimes faced with conundrums and confusions courtesy of certain words that are spelled or pronounced similarly. These sets of words are commonly known as Homonyms. In order to develop error-free and finely-drafted official and business documents, it is very important that we are summarily aware of these homonyms and not succumb to the confusion they create.

Let’s take a look at 10 common homonyms that can confuse most of us.

Complement vs. Compliment

Complement: Something that completes or enhances.

The ancillary departments must complement operations to create a seamless ecosystem.

Compliment: A remark or expression of admiration.

Giuseppe complimented his team on its successful completion of the project.

Ensure vs. Insure

Ensure: To make sure or safe.

The company will ensure that all affected employees receive compensation.

Insure: To obtain insurance.

The new office is insured against any damage caused by fire.

Affect vs. Effect

Affect: To act or have an effect upon.

Unplanned downtime has affected timelines across departments.

Effect: A change caused by the consequence of an action.

Employees must be made aware of the effects of working in hazardous conditions.

Confirmation vs. Conformation

Confirmation: An act of being confirmed.

The meeting can be scheduled only if we receive confirmation from at least six members.

Conformation: Compliance with the law or rule.

The software doesn’t conform to new security regulations.

Incite vs. Insight

Incite: To spur or urge.

George incited a heated debate among his colleagues by making a controversial statement.

Insight: A deep understanding of situations or people.

Mario’s insights into automation have helped his startup develop one of the smartest robots in the world.

Accede vs. Exceed

Accede: To agree or approve.

The Board of Directors finally acceded to the demands of the trade union.

Exceed: To be greater than or to extend beyond.

The consignment exceeded the weight limit permitted by the freight company.

Imminent vs. Eminent

Imminent: Something that is about to happen soon.

After having performed abysmally in the client meeting, his ouster is imminent.

Eminent: A respected person in a particular sphere.

Mohammed al-Fatah is one of the world’s most eminent taxidermists.

Defer vs. Differ

Defer: To delay or postpone.

The general body meeting has been deferred until the next week.

Differ: To be dissimilar or to disagree.

My opinions surely differ from yours as far as the severance package is concerned.

Principle vs. Principal

Principle: A fundamental doctrine.

The amendment of the Education Law is contrary to the principles of the Constitution.

Principal: The most important person or thing.

Currently, the Principal of the Baptist Mission School is Reverend Aloysius Bartholomew.

Queue vs. Cue

Queue: A sequence of people or things.

I’m late for the meeting because there was a serpentine queue at the copier.

Cue: A signal.

Tapping the table was my cue for you to conclude the conversation with the agent.

The business landscape is ever-changing, but the documentation it requires is highly unlikely to see a sea change. Therefore it’s paramount to keep upskilling ourselves and prevent obvious linguistic mistakes and pitfalls. It is important to keep reading and writing the wonderful language of English, and we hope that this blog helps you in your endeavor of producing cutting-edge business content.

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