Get to Know Those Words that Sound Alike and Look Alike
By Jan Schmitt, RPR, CSR, CCR – Principal, Washington
This article was originally published on the Schmitt Reporting & Video, A Veritext Company, blog.
One of the most daunting aspects of being a court reporter is what you don’t know. Knowing words is imperative. Understanding the subject matter and applying the knowledge you have of that subject with the words involved is challenging, yet fun. While proofing one of my new reporter’s deposition transcripts, the parties were referring to their church parish. However, the reporter had used the spelling, perish, meaning to no longer exist. Uh-oh. Totally different meanings.
To help understand those sometimes baffling words that sound similar, but have completely different meanings, I suggest you purchase 8,000 Soundalikes, Look-Alikes, and Other Words Often Confused, edited by Eugenie Fitzhugh and Mary Louise Gilman. I purchased this through NCRA. This book is eye-opening, and I’ve found some words I did not even know had a different spelling or meaning. I regularly open this book and read a few pages each week.
Of course, the most common words we commonly confuse are stationery and stationary. Stationary means to stay still, stay with an A, so it is spelled with the letter A in the ending. Yet stationery is paper you would use to write a letter, two Es, so it is spelled with an E in the ending. Finding ways to distinguish conflicting or confusing words is a great way to get to know the English language.
There’s also peek, peak and pique. If you take a peek at the sunrise, your two eyes are looking toward the sky, or in this case two Es. A peak has an A, which kind of looks like a mountain peak. To pique someone’s interest is to create a question, hence it contains a que for question. Same with breech and breach. A breech birth is … you got it, two Es.
Then there’s effect and affect. These are hard to differentiate sometimes because both can be a noun and a verb. It is always “to the effect.” So that’s easy. If you can replace effect/affect with the word, result, when a noun (or implement/bring about when a verb), then it’s effect. If you can replace effect/affect with the word, influence, then it’s affect. Additionally, most of the time when “a/an” or “the” appears prior to it, it is effect (noun). Affect is only a noun in relation to psychology, as in someone’s affect.
A few years ago I had a case about an affluent family with effluent issues at their home. Yikes. They weren’t very happy with the damages to their home.
Passed and past are my nemeses. Passed, meaning going by, yet past meaning having gone by. Sometimes it could mean either or both. We all have our word challenges; that’s one of mine. Know your word nemeses and conquer them!
Court reporters listen and report different cases each day. Coming into a case where everyone involved understands the case lingo except the court reporter can be a bit difficult. So asking questions, looking at documents, and doing some Internet research during breaks is most helpful. Generally, if it seems the word doesn’t make sense, it’s probably an incorrect word or you’re simply not understanding the subject matter.
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Jan Schmitt has been a professional court reporter for over 30 years, working in Portland, Oregon and Southwest Washington. Her experience and professionalism has attracted and retains the top court reporters and videographers in the region. Our court reporters average over 20 years of experience, with most of them having worked with Jan their entire career. Jan continues to report as well, as she enjoys the client contact and the relationships that develop over years of reporting.