7 more confusing word pairs

Know the difference between ‘flout’ and ‘flaunt’ or ‘home’ and ‘hone’? Here’s a handy guide—with examples—to ensure (not insure) that you never mix up these and some other tricky words again.

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Oral and verbal

“Oral” means by mouth and should be used when referring to spoken language. It is more precise than verbal.

• Example: The incident was mentioned in an oral report to her supervisor.

“Verbal” means with words, either written or spoken.

• Example: Patrick O’Brian is a verbal virtuoso.

Complement and compliment

“Complement” means to add to or complete. It can also mean the quantity, number, or assortment required to make a thing complete.

• Example: The information on this website is meant to complement the advice from your physician.
• Example: I have the full complement of style guides and dictionaries.

A “compliment” is an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration. “Complimentary” means favorable or free.

• Example: Was Anna trying to compliment me or insult me?
• Example: The feedback on the article has been very complimentary.
• Example: The tickets were complimentary.

Cord and chord

A “cord” refers to a rope or a bond, an insulated electrical cable, or an anatomical structure.

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