Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Spelling tips – doubt

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Remember the silent ‘b’ in ‘doubt’ because sometimes it’s only naturally to ‘b’ in doubt.

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Written by Wordwatch

24/01/2010 at 11:48 am

5 Responses

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  1. I just saw this one from “Woe Is I”: “palate” contains “a plate” (which suggests taste or the mouth). Of course, you still might struggle over pallet vs. palette.

    Same with “principal”: you might recall the principal as your pal, but that won’t help when you’re trying to recall if an investment is also your pal or is “principle.” Grammar writers say to think of “principal” (chief, most important) as most commonly an adjective and “principle” (rule, theory) as almost always a noun. But what about “principal” alone as your school pal or as a sum of money? Or “principled” as an adjective?

    The principal-as-adjective rule holds up if you see it’s being used as “principal official” and “principal investment” — but that’s a lot of added thinking.

    Michael Farrell

    26/01/2010 at 10:54 pm

    • I like thinking of ‘plate’ for ‘palate’ — that’s a good one. ‘Pallet’ (a straw mattress or portable platform for storing goods) versus ‘palette’ (an artist’s board for mixing paints)is more tricky. I’m glad I don’t need to write them very often! And as you say, there doesn’t seem to be an easy rule for remembering the difference between ‘principal’ and ‘principle’; probably the best guideline is to remember that they’re often confused and to check in a dictionary if you’re not sure! Thanks for this, Michael.


      27/01/2010 at 8:50 am

      • The two Ls in “pallet” remind me of the wooden storage platform; the “-ette” suffix in “palette” is French, which reminds me of painting.

        The most common blunder is to use pallet or palette for taste, as in (incorrect) “cleansing the pallet” or something.

        Michael Farrell

        27/01/2010 at 4:05 pm

  2. P.S. Did you know we used to spell “doubt” without the added B? Same with “debt.” Then the 14th C Latin-lovers got involved and tried to make them more true to Latin equivalents.

    Michael Farrell

    26/01/2010 at 10:59 pm

    • That’s very interesting; I didn’t know that. Thanks very much!


      27/01/2010 at 6:42 am

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