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More words that are easy to mix up

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger on Nov 28, 2017 5:26:17 AM


More than once in the past few weeks I've heard the word "reactionary" used to describe someone who reacts or has reacted to something. I flinch each time this happens, because the word that should be used in these cases is "reactive."

Reactive vs. Reactionary

  • Reactive means responsive, or reacting to something.
    • His reactive nature drove him to address the problem before it had a chance to develop into something serious.


  • Reactionary means ultraconservative in politics.
    • His reactionary style invigorated his conservative followers while infuriating his detractors.

Do you see how confusing the two could inadvertently lead to a problem in today's environment?

Here are some other words that sound quite similar but have different meanings:

Historic vs. Historical

  • Historic means having great importance or lasting meaning.
    • Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was a historic moment for mankind.
  • Historical means something based on facts of history.
    • Gloria's book is a historical romance set in the English countryside one hundred years ago.

Literally vs. Figuratively

  • Literally means in a literal (true/real) manner.
    • Gloria wanted to buy a pack of gum, but there were literally zero people working behind the counter.
  • Figuratively means in a figurative (not real) manner.
    • I'm speaking figuratively when I say that Gloria thought Dave was going to make her die laughing.

One of my closest friends uses "literally" when she's not speaking literally SO FREQUENTLY that it (figuratively) drives me nuts. For example:

  • I was so hungry this morning that I literally thought I was going to starve to death. (INCORRECT)
    • Why it's incorrect: My friend might have been hungry, but it's highly unlikely that she truly believed she was going to starve to death.

What words do you hear being used incorrectly? Please share in the comments!

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at

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Sep 24, 2018 5:50 AM AnnaMid    says:

Good post. On the following page you may also find ethics essay topics to choose the best one for your paper.