Designer vocabulary. A suite of sweet homonyms.
Q: What is wrong with the following sentence?
We thought the new color palate was to blue and failed too compliment the stationary design.
A: It’s a train wreck of well-intentioned designer vocabulary gone wrong.
Ever since the early days of advertising, when art and copy were handled in separate departments, it’s been a long-running joke that graphic designers can’t spell. Well, like most jokes, there’s probably a little truth to that. And, of course, with the prevalence of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, the evidence of designer spelling deficiencies has expanded. In my opinion, in a world of auto-correct and spell-check, it’s not the traditional “typos” that designers struggle with today. It’s the homonyms (sometimes more correctly referred to as homophones). These are words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently. The issue isn’t typos, it’s the use of correctly spelled words in the wrong context.
So, just in time for the New Year, we’ve provided our top “designer vocabulary words” as a creative community service to help our fellow designers figure out which (or is that witch?) word they actually mean to use.
compliment / complement
If you’re being complimentary, you’re saying nice things about someone or something.
If you’re talking about colors that work well together, you mean complementary.
palate / palette
Your palate is at the roof of your mouth and can also describe your sense of taste or discernment of flavor.
When you’re working with a set of colors, like an artist, you’re referring to a palette.
capitol / capital
The Capitol is where Congress meets.
If you are referring to raising start-up funds, an upper-case letter, or a city, you’re looking for the word capital.
its / it’s
You should use its to describe your computer’s mind of its own.
If you mean to shorten the phrase “it is”, you should use it’s.
your / you’re / yore
Your things are the ones belonging to you.
You’re not paying attention when you use the wrong word for you are.
Yore is a somewhat outdated word, meaning long ago. If you’re using this word in place of the other two spellings, then you’re totally hooked on phonics.
their / there / they’re
Their is a possessive adjective. You might say, “Their designers all have the latest gadgets.”
When referring to a location, you may ask, “Who put your camera over there?”
“They’re always in attendance at the hippest networking events,” is a contraction of “they are.”
pier / peer
If you’re walking out to a boat, you’re likely walking on a pier.
Your friends and coworkers are your peers, and you might have to peer over your 27″ iMac to see them.
to / too / two
To is a preposition expressing motion or direction. “I’m going to the Apple store to buy more gadgets.”
Too can mean “also” or “to a higher degree.” If you’re Tweeting that you’re too busy today, or something is too spicy, please use the correct too.
Two is a number. Seriously, do we have to spell all of these out?
affect / effect
Affect is usually used as a verb meaning to produce an effect. Confused yet?
Effect is a noun showing consequence or action–as in “cause and effect.”
stationary / stationery
If your desk chair doesn’t have wheels, it’s stationary.
Stationery, on the other hand, is a collection of paper products, such as letterhead with matching envelopes.
So those are our top designer homonyms. Be sure to bookmark this post, and don’t be shy about checking back when you’re unsure of which word to use. Good luck.
Can you think of any other homonyms that are often used incorrectly?