Have Fun With This QU I--Z

By Rob Kyff

October 19, 2016 3 min read

I recently challenged you with a quiz on frequently-confused words, based on a list compiled by Bob Barton of Farmington, Conn. That quiz comprised words from the first half of the alphabet, and many of you have asked for more. So here's a second quiz covering letters I through Z on Bob's list. Good luck!

1. Some readers made (invidious, insidious) comparisons between the first quiz and gruesome torture. 2. Many said they made the correct choices with (lightening, lightning) speed. 3. I keep a usage book on my fireplace (mantle, mantel). 4. Mastering usage distinctions is a (perquisite, prerequisite) for being an English teacher.

5. Teachers (proscribe, prescribe) the use of "it's" as a possessive. 6. Striving for clarity is a guiding (principal, principle) of good writing. 7. Will you (wrack, rack) your brain while taking this quiz? 8. Regular review of these usage distinctions is the best (rout, route) to mastering them.

9. This quiz will help to (staunch, stanch) any leaks in your usage knowledge. 10. Standards of correct usage are flexible, not (stationary, stationery). 11. When our plan to master usage failed, we tried a new (tack, tact). 12. Some readers will find this quiz (tortuous, torturous)

13. If you've made it this far in the quiz, you're a real (trouper, trooper). 14. Making an occasional usage mistake is a (venial, venal) sin. 15. Extremism in the defense of good usage is no (vice, vise)! 16. It's sometimes OK to (waive, wave) usage rules.


1. invidious (offensive), not insidious (operating secretly) 2. lightning (flash of light), not lightening (to make lighter) 3. mantel (shelf), not mantle (cloak) 4. prerequisite (requirement), not perquisite (privilege of office)

5. proscribe (to prohibit), not prescribe (to order) 6. principle (rule, belief), not principal (key person or thing) 7. rack (to strain), not wrack (to destroy) 8. route (path), not rout (disorderly retreat)

9. stanch (to halt a flow), not staunch (faithful) 10. stationary (motionless), not stationery (writing paper) 11. tack (course), not tact (discretion) 12. torturous (inflicting pain), not torturous (full of twists and turns)

13. trouper (member of an acting troupe, one who handles adversity well), not trooper (cavalry soldier, state police officer) 14. venial (forgivable), not venal (corruptible, mercenary) 15. vice (evil habit), not vise (a gripping device) 16. waive (to suspend), not wave (to move to and fro)

Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via e-mail to [email protected] or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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