Don’t Get Fooled: More Commonly Confused Words

U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Capitol is in Washington, America’s capital.
Photo by Jeff Kubina (Flickr)

Sometimes, it can be hard to know which is the right word to use in a given situation. It’s almost like certain words in the English language were created solely to confuse us! We’ve taken a look at a few of these situations before, but we’re always coming across new ones. Here, then, we’ll make another attempt at clearing up the confusion with some often-mixed-up words. Hopefully, these tricky spelling traps won’t catch you!


If you’ve raised money to start a business, you might have a lot of capital, assets of a corporation.

If you’re talking about the seat of a government, it gets tricky: A capital is the city where a government is based, but the building that lawmakers do business in is the capitol.


A certain scent or song might evoke a memory: It brings it to mind.

You might invoke a rule, putting it into effect. You could also try to call forth spirits by invoking them at a séance.

Basically, if something is evoked, you’re likely to be summoning a memory or an idea; you’re suggesting or recalling something that’s less concrete. If you’re invoking something, you’re probably calling forth or summoning something more directly.


If you’re famous, everybody knows who you are. But if you’re infamous, you might wish people didn’t know who you are: Infamous means that something is known for being bad or evil.


Someone with a flair for something has a talent for it. Flair can also mean an interesting style, like if the food at a dinner has a Spanish flair.

Something that flares grows wider, like a flared skirt, or larger, like a flame or a sudden burst of ill temper.


A predominant person or idea is more influential or common than others. This word is an adjective. Predominate is the related verb: To predominate is to be more numerous or successful. A predominant idea predominates over others.


Something that is simple is easy and not complex. Simplistic has a similar meaning, but it has a negative connotation: Something that’s simplistic is simple to the point that it’s incomplete and oversimplified.


When a player throws the ball, they heave or toss it through the air; it’s a form of the verb “throw.”

Throes are spasms or struggles; one might be in the throes of childbirth. This word is a noun.

Which words always trip you up? Let us know in the comments below!

Mindy Young, an editor for Online Writing Jobs, got her start as a newspaper copy editor after earning her B.A. from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She spent nearly 13 years editing stories, writing headlines, and putting together pages for daily newspapers, and along the way, she also had the opportunity to write food columns and restaurant reviews. After earning a pair of Associated Press awards and a Suburban Newspaper Association award, she left journalism for the world of content marketing, where she puts her skills to work every day for OWJ clients and writers.

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4 comments on “Don’t Get Fooled: More Commonly Confused Words
  1. Olena Taran says:

    Great article! I wish there were more contrastive articles with examples like this one! I’m not a native English speaker, so it was extremely useful for me)

  2. Admin says:

    We’re glad you found this useful! English can be such a tricky language, can’t it?

  3. Olena Taran says:

    It’s more than tricky. The spelling kills me. Ukrainian language is a phonetic language (spelling coincides with the pronunciation, we write as we hear the word). Thank to your blog I hope to master my English

  4. Admin says:

    Indeed. English is not very phonetic. There are many words that sound like one another that mean different things (which can be difficult for even native English speakers). Also, there are major differences between American English spelling and British English spelling, making it even more confusing. We definitely wish you good luck in your studies!