Word Confusion Writing Tip

Word Confusion


At some point, we’ve all had writing mix-up of words we don’t intend. Within my own writing, I’ve come across some common words that I’ve gotten confused many times. Sometimes – yes – sometimes it does happen – spellcheck does confuse words and inserts the opposite word. Most often these words are interchanges of the others and thankfully I’ve caught them during my edits on the Hunt book.

Three of the most common interchanges of words I’ve come across in my writing of this book is:

Trial vs. Trail

Trial refers to the process of a civil or criminal court trial.

Trail refers to the hiking trails in the outdoors.

With just two vowels in these words, they mean completely different things – almost like light and dark. I’ve caught this so many times that’s it’s not funny. But thankfully, I noticed these blunders. I must have had hiking on the brain when I made these mistakes. After going through so many trial and appeal documents you’d think my fingers and brain would know the difference and type trial instead of trail.

Except vs. Expect

With the interchange of three letters, these two words mean something completely different. I noticed these word exchanges and it transforms the entire meaning of the sentence.

Except means basically exclude, while expect means something is likely to happen. Different meanings altogether, but when I’ve been writing these two words I have gotten them mixed up.

Reserve vs. Reverse

With the interchange of four letters, these two words mean something completely different as well.

Reserve means to hold off using and save it for the future, while reverse means everything from going backwards to acting in a usual manner. Once again one of these words can change the entire meaning of a sentence or passage.


How I caught these mistakes during my editing was when I was hard editing my Hunt book. I’d make manual changes on a printed manuscript, but then I took it a step further to ensure all my bases were covered.

Even after inserting my edits into the computer, I’d use the search function in Word to double check on finding each of these words. This gave me the added confidence that every single one of these words was correct in the context of the writing. No matter how many times I’ve done a paper edit, there was always one or two trails not corrected.

Writing Tip 

All my problem words have been identified in my Hunt book. I’m sure in the next book I write I’ll encounter new problem words to identify.

Recognize your problem words with interchanges like the ones that plagued me. Write them down. Then do a search function in the document to help you find if those word interchanges are in your document like I encountered in my own writing. The search function can be your lifesaver.


Graphic – © Christena Stephens