Proofreading Tips: False Friends -- Heterographs and Homophones

Catriona Tippin

Geyser -- Not to be
confused with a blokey
old bloke!
Following on from the popular False Friends post, Catriona brings us twenty more false friends to be aware of in our writing.

The phrase ‘false friends’ usually applies to words from different languages which sound similar (we’re going global, after all) for instance: 

French ‘magasin’ sounds like magazine... but means shop. 

German ‘bekommen’ sounds like become... but means get. 

See the previous Proofreading Tips article on False Friends.

Here are another twenty UK English false friends, heterographs and homophones, check for these when you’re proofreading: 

Alternately / alternatively 
Switching between two things / doing something different 

Biannual / biennial 
Occurring twice a year / occurring every two years 

Discreet / discrete 
Careful and prudent / separate and distinct 

Envelop /envelope 
To enclose, to surround / paper enclosure to surround a letter 

Fictional / fictitious 
Associated with creative writing / associated with dishonesty 

Flounder / founder 
To struggle / to sink (verbs) 
A fish / a person who starts something (nouns) 
The verbs can be the cause of confusion, rarely the nouns. 

Grisly / grizzly 
Repellent, gruesome / big brown bear 

Geezer / geyser 
Blokey old bloke / steamy hot spring 

Hummus / humus 
Beige chickpea matter, nourishing to humans / brown organic matter, nourishing to plants 

Hoard / horde 
An accumulated store of stuff (noun) or accumulating that stuff (verb) / a crowd or mob 

Impracticable / impractical 
Impossible to carry out / unrealistic, not sensible 

Intense / intensive 
Emotions are intense / actions are intensive 

Loath / loathe 
Reluctant (adjective) / intense dislike (verb) 

Luxuriant / luxurious 
Characterised by abundant growth / characterised by wealth or comfort 

Parameter / perimeter 
A limit / an outline 

Raise / raze 
Lift, heighten / destroy, demolish 

Regretful / regrettable 
Full of regret / deserving regret 

Silicon / silicone 
Abundant element used in semiconductor technology / synthetic polymer used in plastic surgery 

Torpid / torrid 
Dull, apathetic / scorched, passionate 

Tortuous / torturous 
Complicated, full of twists and turns / involving or causing torture

Catriona Tippin aka @ProofReadingTip will be back next month with more proofreading tips. 

To see previous tips, click on this proofreading link.

Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006 and helps organise venues for SCBWI North East. Details of her writing and illustrating here. She proofreads study guides, house magazines and publicity material for two national educational charities, in addition to working on a variety of proofreads and copyedits for the growing self-published world. Her monthly column is intended to give you food for thought, remembering “Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling or typographical error” (McKean’s Law, named after its inventor Erin McKean, editor of the Oxford American Dictionary). 


  1. Great mind-boggling stuff, Catriona! I'll have to watch out for the hoards of grizzly humus-eaters...they're all over Winchester.

    1. Ha! Is this on a biannual or biennial basis?

  2. Just brilliant! There is something in your style I love it, and the fact that you share your wisdom, as well as your knowledge, with your readers. statement of purpose proofreading


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