Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: I 'C' U

Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?


Today, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 focuses on word groups that begin with the letter "C". Some are homophones, and some have tricky spelling, but all of them can cause writers and editors headaches. 

Cancel, canceled, canceling, but cancellation

Why? Who knows, but that's how it is. Best to just memorize it or at least remember it's something you need to look up before you press send.

Carat, caret, karat

Not to be confused with carrot of the eating kind, these three words mean completely different things despite sounding alike.

A carat is the weight of diamonds. It equals up to 200 milligrams or about 3 grains, according to AP Style. A caret is a proofreader's mark that looks like this ^ and is used to insert a word or phrase into a sentence. Jewelry lovers will know that a karat is the proportion of pure gold used with an alloy, as in 24k gold. It is equal to 1/24 part of pure gold in alloy.

Caster, castor

A caster is a roller, like on the bottom of chairs. Castor refers to castor oil.

Censer, censor, censure

Did you know that a censer is a vessel for burning incense? I didn't. I never really knew what that was called. Censor means to prohibit or restrict the use of something or to delete anything considered objectionable. To censure is to condemn or is an official reprimand.

Cleanup, Clean up

Cleanup is the noun and adjective form, while the verb is split into two words, aka clean up.


These five books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2016 edition
The Chicago Manual of Style
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition
The Bugaboo Review: A lighthearted guide to exterminating confusion about words, spelling, and grammar

Grammar Nerd Question of the Week

What is the difference between a cynic and a skeptic?


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


So many words are written differently depending on their usage: noun, adjective, adverb, verb. That's why I live on Merriam-Webster. :)
Exactly, Kelly. It's always best to double check.
Chrys Fey said…
It's important to know the meanings of similar sounding and looking words.

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