Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Problematic Prose (Part I)

It's about the time again...though random and intermittent as it is. Wordsmith Wednesday!

Today I want to talk about the oftentimes problematic use of the following:

Okay, here we go!

Continual vs Continuous:
The word continual means something happens on a regular basis, but not at all times. The word continuous indicates an occurrence without breaks.

~The continuous beat of my heart keeps me alive.
~A continual routine of exercise makes it beat longer.

Disinterested vs Uninterested:
Believe it or not, these two are not interchangeable. Disinterested indicates indifference. Whereas uninterested means you simply don't care.

~Because Jill is a disinterested editor, she can make corrections without being biased.
~Jill didn't want to edit the latest sci-fi because she was uninterested in the plot.

Further vs Farther:
This is one of those I have to think about each time I use it. The word farther indicates a physical distance. The term further refers to a length of time, degree, or anything else but time.

~The farther we traveled from home, the further I fell into sadness.

Discrete vs Discreet:
Ohh, tricksy ones these are! Confession: Until recently, I'd never considered there was a difference. Sad, I know. Anyway, discrete means separate or distinct. Discreet means private, prudent, or circumspect.

~Interesting characters, good pacing, and a unique story line are discrete factors in a great book.
~To avoid spoilers, one should be discreet in discussing the novel.

Hanged vs Hung:
This one is pretty easy. Things are hung. People (who are executed) are hanged.
~A rope was hung around his neck before he was hanged.


  1. Very nice post, Izzie. And to be honest, discrete and discreet ... I never really thought about it! Thanks for edu-mah-cating me!

  2. Great post! I know I get further/farther mixed up lol. I never really thought about discrete/discreet--but I knew there were 2 variations! Learn something new every day :)

  3. This reminds me of the period I taught English, it was an eye opener for me, more than it was for the students, to find out that words I had carelessly used interchangeably indeed had different meanings! Glad I found your blog by the way....

  4. Thanks, guys :) I'm constantly learning new things I thought I already knew :)