#WhyWriteWrong – Baited vs Bated

Twice lately, I have been pulled right out of a story I was reading by the phrase “baited breath,” and I realized this is a mistake far too many people are making. One does not have “baited breath” unless one has been eating worms or shiners. Honest.

The correct word in this case is “bated,” as in “abated” meaning something that has ceased happening. Like breathing. In other words, the phrase “bated breath” means someone is holding his breath, whereas to say “baited breath” implies someone has very odd dining habits.

The Serious Example:

The accused murderer awaited the jury’s verdict with bated breath. (He was holding his breath).

The Silly example:

The cat ate every shiner in the pail, ending up with baited breath.  (The cat now smells fishy.)

Hope this helps sort out the difference between bated and baited. (But I’m not holding my breath here. 😀 )

42 thoughts on “#WhyWriteWrong – Baited vs Bated

  1. I want to offer a small debate here. There is a fabulous old movie called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart at their best, plus several others in key roles. Stewart was a politician who rose to fame on Wayne’s act. At the end, a few people still remembered the truth. The old newspaper man said when the legend surpasses the truth, print the legend.

    Have some of these words settled into obscurity to the point that the error is acceptable these days? If not, is it possible, and when would the dividing line appear? Think about some of the text speak and auto-correct errors. Loose is used more frequently than lose when it should be lose. When does Webster have to modify the dictionary?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I see the changes you mention, Craig, and I truly hate 99% of them. Just because a lot of people use words incorrectly doesn’t necessarily mean we should change the definition to match their errors. To my mind, at that point, grammar serves no purpose at all, and should just be forgotten entirely.

      What I do believe is that you may say a lot of things, but when you put it down in writing, unless it is dialogue, you should stick to the rules, assuming you know them. And if you don’t, you should learn them. I am not an English teacher, and I have made plenty of mistakes, but I’m always trying to get better.

      Bait and bate don’t mean the same thing, nor should they, to my mind. Neither do “literally” and “figuratively,” though that’s one that’s on the chopping block right now.

      To me, not caring enough to learn to use words correctly shows an inherent laziness that truly concerns me. I understand that some may feel differently, but seeing an error like bait used for bate always makes me cringe, and #WhyWriteWrong is for those who really want to avoid having their readers react like that. (Many, many will.)

      Most of the errors that abound lately are the result of simply not knowing what’s correct. They aren’t being used because the person is fighting for the right to change a definition. They are being used because the person actually doesn’t know the difference. All of us make mistakes like this at some time or other, but for myself, I don’t want to. I would prefer to use words correctly, and while adding slang to the dictionary is fine, deciding to change definitions because of the frequency with which errors are made makes no sense to me at all.

      And when it involves history, I feel pretty much the same way. An interesting legend is great, but the facts need to be out there, as well. I detest finding out something I’ve believed for years is a lie. I want the truth. And I can handle it. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      • I’m on your side of this, by the way. These errors drive me crazy too. (When did disrespecting become an actual word?) Then again, I don’t want to come across like I’m writing in ancient middle English either. I firmly believe most of it is because people don’t know the difference, which is the point you made. Perhaps our education system needs to make a few adjustments. Maybe your post will serve as a nice lesson to someone… literally.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Whew. I’m glad you are on my side of this issue, Craig. After I posted, I was worried I may have offended you, which is not my intent. (Nor do I want to offend anyone else.) I just purely love words, and I’m always happy to learn new ones. I can’t look them up in the dictionary without reading the origin, and all the other related things on the page. Including the rest of the definitions from the top to the bottom. (Okay, nowadays I merely touch the new word on my Kindle to see the definition, so I don’t get to look at other words on the page, but you get my drift.)

          Irregardless of our personal feelings (See what I did there? 😀 ) we still live in an age when using words incorrectly will not make a favorable impression on our readers, so even those of us who don’t much care should be aware that many readers do. In other words, why write wrong? It will just make us look dumb. And don’t even get me started on the state of education today. That will lead down roads I am not willing to travel on this blog, but I suspect we would probably be in agreement on that topic, as well.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. “unless one has been eating worms or shiners.” 😂 Great post! I await your next WhyWriteWrong with baited breath. (Tuna for lunch…)

    P.S. I like you, I do, but please don’t use irregardless on your blog EVER again! 😉 (BTW, autocorrect did not change ‘irregardless’ and I’m now going to cry.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Suzanne. That was exactly what I aimed for. I have always preferred fun ways to explain things, when possible, and this particular pair of words just leant themselves to it so nicely. 😀 Glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for taking the time to comment today. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t remember a time when I have ever seen, read, or used that phrase. Is that odd?

    I came across this post on Twitter, and my English teacher self called out to me to click on it. Thank you for your desire to help writer’s better their grammar skills, especially in this instance of commonly confused words.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you are referring to the error, then lucky you! I’ve seen it more often than I care to remember. 😯 But if you are referring to the original, “bated breath,” it might be an age-related thing. It is an old-fashioned sort of phrase (however, one that gets used more often than you might think, especially in fantasy). At any rate, if I passed muster with an English teacher, then I can safely say my work here is done! 😀

      Glad you enjoyed this. I try to do a #WhyWriteWrong feature on Fridays, though I confess, I don’t always get them out. There will be more, though, as I can get to them, and as I find these things in books I’m reading. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and hope to see you visiting often. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • In that case, I’m referring to both the error and the phrase. I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy, either, so that could also be why I don’t see it.

        I followed your blog in order to keep up with the errors you find! I look forward to them (even though that’s not necessarily a good thing, considering you’re finding errors in published novels). I hope you never have to write about errors in mine when I finally publish. 👀👀

        Liked by 1 person

        • Fantasy isn’t the only place “bated breath” is used. Didn’t mean to mislead you. It’s the kind of thing Severus Snape would say, for sure, but also droll characters from all sorts of fiction, said with tongue in cheek, and an exaggerated air of erudition.

          For whatever reason, I’m glad you decided to follow the blog, and I’ll try to have more #WhyWriteWrong bits for you, here and there. Nice to have you in the group! And good luck on your journey toward publication. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. “The cat ate every shiner in the pail…” Too funny! 😀

    Can’t say I’ve witnessed the baited/bated issue, but I have seen the misuse of bear/bare more times than I can count.

    The one which annoys me the most isn’t about sounding alike (at least not to me), but people just not thinking it through and pronouncing it correctly – “I could care less” – UGH! Almost daily I hear or read this and I cringe. More annoying is I read even though it is an incorrect phrase, it’s considered acceptable.

    Why is it acceptable when it doesn’t have the same meaning as “I couldn’t care less?”

    Very frustrating.

    Enjoyed this post! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Why is it acceptable when it doesn’t have the same meaning as “I couldn’t care less?”

      A very good question, Felicia. As you say, people just don’t stop to think about it, I guess. Which isn’t really a terrible problem when they are chatting in general conversation, but becomes one when writing. Unless, of course, it’s part of the dialogue of a character who would likely misuse the phrase.

      Writing a book with as few glaring errors as possible is something we should all aspire to, but some folks need a bit of help. (Myself, included at times.) No one speaks perfectly, and many of us took our last English class decades ago–FIVE of them, for myself–so we mess up. But I’m always trying to learn, and I’m keeping a list of errors I see in published books (sometimes by very successful authors). Since this feature seems to be garnering a bit of attention, I will try to post a new one every Friday.

      Very glad you enjoyed this one. It’s always a pleasure to aim for instructional AND amusing. So glad it made you smile. 🙂


    • OH, I love that expression, Tina! I may have to borrow it! 🙂 And I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. I started doing these a few weeks ago, planning to make it an every Friday thing, but I confess, I’ve been a bit sporadic with it. Looking at all the comments on this one, I think I need to do a better job, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for something for next week. Thanks for stopping by, Tina, and for taking the time to comment, too. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Wicked Words | Story Empire

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