Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: The Letter 'P'

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?


We resume our alphabetical study this week with words that begin with the letter “P.” Surprisingly, there are quite a few important spellings and clarifications in this category, so I’ll do a second part next week.


Pair is the singular form of the word, despite, as the Chicago Manual of Style notes, “the inherent sense of twoness.” The plural is pairs.


Joe bought three pairs of shoes at the outlet mall. 

Parallel, paralleled, paralleling

All three have a double “l” in the middle, something I seldom remember and constantly have to look up.

Peacemaker, peacemaking

One word for both peacemaker and peacemaking.

Peak, peek, pique

A peak is an apex, according to CMS. The word for a quick or illicit glance is peek. Pique has two meanings, the first being to annoy or arouse, as in to pique one’s interest. The phrase, a fit of pique, is an episode of peevishness and wounded vanity, the manual states.

Pedal, peddle

One may pedal a bicycle. To peddle means to attempt to sell something.


Here’s another word I always have to look up. Peninsula has one “n” after the “e.” For some reason, I think there are two, but no, only one.

Persuade, convince

CMS makes the distinction between these two words by associating persuade with actions, while convince is more aligned with beliefs or understandings.


She persuaded him to buy a new suit for the wedding. 

He convinced the judge he was innocent.

Bonus fact: Did you know the Pap smear was named after George Papanicolaou, the US anatomist who developed this test for cervical cancer?

Fact courtesy of the Associated Press Stylebook 2016.

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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


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.


I correct peak and peek all the time for my editing clients.
It's a very common error. Homophones trip everyone up.
R. Doug Wicker said…
It's easy to remember "parallel" because in the middle it has a pair of parallel letters.

Sorry, Karen. I couldn't resist that setup. ;o)
Anonymous said…
I haven't heard of the phrase "a fit of pique" before, sounds good! Is it commonly used?
R. Doug, you crack me up!

angel011, I've seen it on occasion, but not too often. It is a nice phrase. I'll have to incorporate it more.

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