Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why We Get Words Wrong, Part 6: Hairsplitting Rules

Note the two diction "errors" in the image. How many people really know about the proper meaning of momentarily? I know what grammar snobs are thinking: Well, they should know. Yet I have run across people more articulate then most of those snobs who do know the difference and don't care. For this reason, I do not correct people who use momentarily for in a moment. It's a hairsplitting rule.

The confusion between compose and comprise is another story. Their first syllable is spelled and sounded identically, and their meanings are close. As the note says, the parts compose the whole, and the whole comprises the parts, so this is an easy mistake to make. In fact, I see them used interchangeably so often in quality books and periodicals that some dictionaries are beginning to accept them as synonyms. You can look them up in,, or