#WhyWriteWrong


A Bank of Transparent Windows

Every now and then, I see words while reading that pop out at me as being used incorrectly. Let me say right up front, I’m not an English teacher, nor a grammarian, but sometimes, it’s pretty obvious that the word has been misused. It happens to all of us from time to time, but we should strive to do better, right? With that thought in mind, here are two examples of misused words I’ve noticed recently.

The first word is opaque. Believe it or not, I see this word being misused fairly often. “She gazed at the rose garden through the opaque windows of the greenhouse.” Huh? Not very likely. Opaque and transparent are exact opposites. Opaque is defined as not able to be seen through, or not transparent.

Example: “The windows were opaque with steam.”
Synonyms: cloudy, filmy, blurred, smeared, misty, hazy, etc.

So be sure your (clean) windows are transparent, and your thoughts, perhaps, opaque.

My second example involves a more confusing pair of words, which are very often misused in both common speech, and in published books. Let’s take a look at home versus hone.

The word home, in addition to meaning a place of residence, also refers to the act of heading home, much like a homing pigeon. “To move  or be aimed toward a target or destination with great accuracy, as in: “More than 100 missiles were launched, homing in on radar emissions.”

Hone, on the other hand, means to sharpen, as a knife or axe. It also means to refine or perfect something over a period of time. “She has taken numerous workshops to hone her skills over the years”

So if you are writing about someone moving toward or seeking a target destination, you use home. “She homed in on the source of the delicious aroma.”

If you are talking about perfecting a skill, the word choice is hone. “With every new book, the writer honed her vocabulary skills.”

And there you have it. No more being able to look through opaque windows, and no more “honing in on the pigeon’s nest.”

See? Easy-peasy!

 

18 thoughts on “#WhyWriteWrong

    • I’ve been trying to make note when I see things I know to be wrong. (Of course, I double check the dictionary and thesaurus, to be sure I’m correct on that before I post.) Home and hone are very commonly confused, so I wasn’t surprised to see that in a book recently. But there’s no real explanation for why opaque is misused quite so often. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Staci, and I hope it will help those who do get these words mixed up. I know I’m always looking for ways to help me with the ones that always confuse me. 🙂

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  1. Very transparent, Marcia. I was able to hone in on your meaning from the comfort of my home. Even though I am a tad fluish and my head is as opaque as my very dirty windows often are.

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    • Thanks, Olga. I’m jotting down these things as I spot them, as reminders to myself, and as subjects for this series of posts. Hopefully, it’s helpful! Thank you for sharing, too. 🙂

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  2. I notice a lot of errors like those. I even find them in my writing, but hopefully before I publish. I’m sometimes surprised at how differently the fingers type from my thoughts.

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    • That’s why I have an editor and a proofreader. When I look back at what’s on my page, I see what I THINK I’ve written, rather than what’s actually there. It’s very hard, even with betas, editors, and proofers to catch everything. But these two errors are usually made because the writer doesn’t realize he’s used the word wrong. Especially home/hone. I see that all the time. A good clue on that one is, if the phrase includes IN after the word, it isn’t going to be hone. You don’t “hone in” on anything. You simply “hone.” It means sharpen or perfect, and you wouldn’t say “sharpen in.” I should have included that in the post, I think. 😀

      Words. Doncha just love ’em?? I do. 😀

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