I recently highlighted some common mispellings that change the word you intend to write into a completely different one. 

In this lesson, we delve deeper to reveal word pairs that vary by mere letters, but are far apart in their meaning.

Complement / Compliment
To be fair, you might not use the first word very often, but it’s different than a compliment (an expression of praise) because complement is usually a verb which means that something completes something else.  “Your language skills complement your partner’s math abilities.”

Illicit / Elicit
If you ask questions of a shy child, you might be trying to elicit a response.  One could say you try to evoke a response.  Illicit is an adjective that describes something that breaks social norms, as in an illicit affair.  Illicit can also mean forbidden or illegal.

Allude / Elude
To elude something (like eluding capture) is to escape or evade it.  To allude is to refer to something indirectly.  Such as:  “By mentioning that he never broke an important promise, the politician alluded to his opponent’s recently-revealed extramarital affair.”

Principle / Principal
You can stand on principle, because a principle is a fundamental assumption.  If you stand on principal, you’re probably being very rude to the person who runs the local school.  Some learned to differentiate by telling themselves that the principal of their school is their pal.  Maybe not the best assumption to make.  Principal can also describe the amount originally invested in a loan, as in “this payment goes toward the principal.”

Capital / Capitol
The U.S. Capitol and the Capitol in Rome share a name.  Otherwise, other capitals are spelled with an ‘A’.  Capital letters, capital investments and capital crimes each have different meanings because capital can refer to wealth (raising capital), a place (the capital of Tennessee), excellence (a capital hotel) and even murder (caput is Latin for head or existence).

Except / Accept
refers to exclusion.  “They were all there, except Frankie.”  Accept is about acceptance or receiving.  “We will accept your explanation.” 

Insure / Ensure
To ensure something means you’ll make sure it happens.  To insure something you must guarantee (usually with money) that it will not be damaged or lost, much as car insurance does.

Previous Tim’s Grammar Lessons:

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  Spelling Mix-Ups

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  …Overpunctuation???!!!

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  Lists

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  Business Letter Writing

Tims grammar Lesson’s; Part 1