Sunday, November 18, 2012

More on I's and E's

The letter I and the letter E often mess us up.  There's our age-old rule, I before E except after C, though there are exceptions to that rule (see this blog for more on exceptions).  However, it's also not clear when to use them in certain words, like is is artifact or artefact?  Compliment or complement?

It turns out, there are two different things going on in those examples.  Artifact is simply the American spelling of the British artefact, but compliment and complement mean two different things.  Compliment is when you acknowledge or give praise to someone or something.  For example, if you tell someone that you like his or her outfit, you are giving that person a compliment.  Complement is when you complete one thing with another or improve upon one thing with another.  You can complement a meal with a good wine, for example.  Or sometimes you hear a couple described as complementing each other because perhaps they have opposite traits that balance each other out.

For other words that are often easily confused, check this web site for a list of different words and expressions!

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