Nope. I’m not talking about their, there, and they’re. Or two, to, and too. Or your and you’re. A bajillion internet memes later we’ve all been there, done that. I’m talking about some commonly confused words I don’t think most of us think about, but once you see them used incorrectly you won’t be able to unsee it.
onto vs on to
“Onto” is a preposition meaning to put something on the surface of something else. They are touching. Just like the two words that make up this preposition. Get it? On and to are touching, just like the thing you’re describing. Nerdy, I know.
“On to” means to go onward and towards something. The two words that make this phrase are separate. Just like onward and towards.
gambit vs gamut
People write gambit a lot, when they actually mean gamut. I actually read a post in a LinkedIn group where a guy said he lost all faith in an author because the author had these two words confused. Seriously. So let me help you out.
A gambit is something said or done to gain an advantage. It comes from chess, believe it or not, where the first move was called “the opening gambit.” Something about sacrificing a pawn. A gambit is a risk. A huge gamble. Ha! Will you look at that? GAMBit and GAMBle start with the same four letters!
A gamut is an entire range in a series. Think “run the gamut.” Both with the letter u in the middle. Thanks, Merriam-Webster!
cite vs site vs sight
This one actually hurts my brain and makes my eyes roll around in their sockets. What I see a lot is “web cite” and “web sight” and “sight your references.” Also “job sight” or “job cite.” Oh. Em. GEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Sight. Do I really have to say that this has to do with vision and your actual eyeballs? Moving on to…
Site. Site is a location, a place, or a scene. Here’s an easy way to remember: SIT. As in, where is the building SITuated? The home you’ve created for yourself on the internet is a website, all one word. So when the servers are down and you’re staring at a blank white page, it’s your site that’s down, not your cite. And, hopefully, not your sight.
Cite. There are several definitions of cite, all related. You can look that up at Merriam-Webster or Oxford Dictionaries. The gist is the word cite means to refer to, whether it’s calling out someone for good behavior (although the parking meter cops are happy to issue parking citations), using a quote, or call attention to in order to support a statement.
- Mary has been cited for her excellence in fundraising.
- Louie cited several authors’ work in his article.
- Always cite strong sources when writing academic papers.
With this one, think citation.
Got all that?
Cool. Now go forth, and confuse these words no more.