Discreet vs. Discrete: A Writer’s Trick for Remembering the Difference

By Michelle Hutchinson

Hush

Image source: http://ow.ly/FHHOp

Can you keep a secret? If so, people might view you as discreet, a word that means prudent, especially with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature. If you’re writing a memoir, you can be discreet about less-than-admirable family members, friends, and contacts in your background story by giving them fake names in your manuscript. You can insert a note in the front matter indicating that some names have been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.

In contrast to being discreet, being discrete has an entirely different meaning. In fact, discrete is rarely used to describe people. Instead, discrete, a word that means separate or distinct, is more typically used to describe things or inanimate objects, as in: The theater has four discrete seating areas.

If you need a trick for remembering the difference between discreet and discrete, just say to yourself, “In the word that means separate or distinct, the Es are separated from each other by the T.”

Readers, what memory tricks do you use to remember how to spell words that sound alike but have different meanings? Scroll down and click on “Leave a comment.”

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