Today’s grammar tip: Avoiding common mix-ups.

Welcome to another edition of Grammar Hammer Time! For this installment, I thought we’d explore commonly confused words. Now, I’m not going to feed a fed horse and remind you of the differences between “to,” “too,” and “two” or “there,” “they’re,” and “their” – I think we can all silently judge each other in text messages well enough. (Kidding! I’m a strong believer in the whole “judge not, lest ye be judged” thing.)

The following mix-ups are much more interesting . . . but they’re also what haunt my dreams. Just know that I do in fact wake from a dead sleep with thoughts like, “Did I write ‘compliment’ or ‘complement’ in my Instagram caption? I should check.”

So here’s my attempt at giving you all nightmares with me! I’ve created a little list of the two confusing words accompanied by a short parenthetical explanation of what each means. Feel free to bookmark this, print it out, and/or hang it above your bed like a dream catcher.

break (pause) / brake (car part)

breech (backside; how some babies are born) / breach (infiltration, violation)

Columbia (like District of Columbia or British Columbia) / Colombia (Shakira’s home country in South America)

compliment (praise) / complement (to complete or make better) → but “complimentary” can be used to describe something that’s free

lead (heavy metal often found in old paint) / led (guided; past tense of “lead”)

loose (not tight) / lose (not win)

medal (award) / metal (what medals are often made of)

palate (in your mouth) / palette (in Bob Ross’s hand)

peak (top of a mountain) / peek (look) → you’ve likely seen the mistake “sneak peak,” which should be “sneak peek”

pedal (bike part) / petal (flower part)

premier (first in rank or importance) / premiere (first performance or showing)

stationary (not moving) / stationery (paper products)

uncharted (unmapped, like “uncharted waters”) / unchartered (without a charter)

vein (carries blood to the heart) / vain (lyric from a Carly Simon song)

vile (awful, abhorrent) / vial (small bottle or tube)

whose (possessive, like “whose is this?”) / who’s (contraction of “who is”)

wreak (inflict) / reek (stink)

Sweet dreams!