So without further ado (do you? ah don't), enjoy the first installment of what I hope will be a partial curative for one of my pet peeves...word misuse. Each week, I plan to take a pair like this and expound (briefly) upon the differences. We'll cover all kinds of things that most writers, Word's Grammar and Spellcheck primary among them, get WRONG with astonishing regularity, causing much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair. This has to stop for two reasons: my dental bill, and what little hair I have left.
SO...here we go.
First batch: discreet versus discrete.
Yes. They are two discrete things, and if you misuse them, you're not being discreet about your treatment of the language.
Here's the scoop from blog.dictionary.com.
"Discreet implies the showing of reserve and prudence in one's behavior or speech. Discrete means something quite different: 'distinct, separate, unrelated.'"
I cannot tell you how seeing this difference ignored in published authors' works (I'm looking at you, Elizabeth Spann Craig) irritates me. And I know there are many other authors out there who've made this mistake over and over and over again. Which says to me two things:
1. You don't know what you don't know.
2. Your editors don't know it, either.
And yes, it does matter. There are something like 400,000 words in the English language; learning the difference between pairs of them that sound and/or look alike but are actually very different in meaning makes you a better communicator. It makes your work say what you intend it to say. And most of all, it keeps people like me from denting walls, the aftereffect of tossing a book against the wall in frustration. (With a Kindle, tossing the "book" against the wall could do even more damage. Making me, your dear reader, even more frustrated. You don't want to go there.)
So remember...be DISCREET about the DISCRETE things you cover in your writing and speech. Or face the flying Kindle.
Watch this space for another segment next Friday!