What You Can Learn about Writing by Sneaking a Peek

by Michelle Hutchinson

An eye with a hazel iris

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

Deciding what to write about in this week’s blog post was easy because yesterday, I was on a company’s website and saw the following:      


Notice the word to which the arrow is pointing. Unless the copywriter was trying to sneak a mountaintop—something that would be very difficult given a mountain’s large size ;-) —the word that should have been used was peek.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that mistake. A week before the start of each academic year, public elementary schools in my area usually have an event called Sneak a Peek where children can see their new classrooms and meet their new teachers. However, more than once, I’ve seen the event advertised as Sneak a Peak. Cringe! That sort of error shouldn’t be coming from an educational institution.

Before I give you some ways to remember when to correctly use peek, peak, and yes, even pique, first, let’s define them.

Peek can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it means a quick or secretive glance. As a verb, it means to glance at quickly or secretively.

Peak can also be a noun or a verb. In addition, it can be an adjective. As a noun, peak means the top of a mountain, or really, the top of anything. As a verb, it means to reach the top of a mountain or to reach the top of an activity or goal, as in: Company X’s revenue peaked during its tenth year in business.

As an adjective, peak means optimal, as in: He was at his peak performance after 6 months of training. Peak, as an adjective, can also mean busiest or most active, as in: Friday is one of the peak travel days in the airline industry.

Pique can be a verb, noun, or adjective, but I most frequently see it misspelled when it is used as a verb meaning to arouse or excite as in: He piqued my curiosity when he showed me the box with the golden lid.

How can you remember the correct spelling of each of these words? Try these tricks.

  1. You know that you need your eyes to peek or take a peek, and since “eyes” has two Es in it, remember that peek has two Es in it too. Alternatively, you can think about the game peek-a-boo. Since boo has double vowels, you can remember that peek has double vowels too.
  2. You know that a peak involves an ascent (a climb), and since “ascent” has an E and an A, remember that peak also has an E and an A.
  3. Pique is most often used in the context of arousing curiosity, and since “curiosity” has an I in it (two Is, really), remember that pique is that curiously odd word that’s not spelled like peek and peak. Okay, maybe that’s not as good of a trick as the two others, but you can at least use the process of elimination to avoid using peek or peak in this instance.

If you like what you’ve read here, click on “Leave a comment.”

If you have a question about some aspect of writing, submit it via the contact form below.

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