Here are the five most common word mix-ups I’ve found while proofreading over the past month.

1. Sort and sought

… especially with the phrase ‘sought-after’.

Correct usage:

I’ll sort out the details tomorrow. (That one’s easy, yep?)

This house is in a sought-after location.

2. Bought and brought

Is this confusion unique to Tasmania? Let me know your experience.

Correct usage:

I bought a pinot noir, which I brought home for dinner. (Wonderful – we’d better master this topic before we drink it.)

3. Principal and principle

Confession-time – I hate this one!

Correct usage:

This blog lists the principal errors I’ve found while proofreading. (They are the main ones.)

In principle, I’m in favour of expanding into new markets.

4. Stationery and stationary

This has an easy rule to remember.

Correct usage:

Use stationery with an ‘e’ (when you mean the paper and envelopes type of stationery) because the word ‘envelope’ starts with an ‘e’.

Traffic may be stationary (with an ‘a’) during rush hour in Hobart. Well, not for long, luckily for us.

5. Complimentary and complementary

I’ve saved the best till last; admit it, you have to think twice.

Correct usage:

Compliment – this often refers to something that is pleasant or a present: you pay someone a compliment; the tickets are complimentary (free).

Complement – this has the meaning of being complete, or the amount needed to make it up to the whole: the workforce has reached full complement; our business services complement each other. (They go together well, make up the whole.)


If you enjoyed reading this, bought a pinot lately and brought it home, live in a sought-after location, are someone of high principles, and are used to paying sincere compliments, why not sign up for the hit Send newsletter below, or take the Hit Send grammar and proofreading quiz?

If you disliked this article and, let’s face it, Scrabble is not your game, use our proofreading service and save yourself some grief. It is pretty painless to send in a job.

And let us know the words you mix up, if any, or suggest a topic for my next blog.