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steady

The adjective steady describes something that is firmly fixed in position. If you have to climb up on your roof, you definitely want to have a steady ladder. Otherwise, you risk ending up in the bushes instead of on the roof.

The adjective steady can also describe something that isn't going to fluctuate wildly. If you have a steady income from a salary, you bring in approximately the same amount of money each month. If you are paid on commission, on the other hand, you may make Midas look poor in some months and beggars look rich in others. As a verb, to steady means "to make something steady" (big surprise): You can steady a wobbly table by sticking a matchbook under its shortest leg, or you could steady a nervous dog with a reassuring pat.

Choose your words

Caught between words? Learn how to make the right choice.

assume/ presume

Assume and presume both mean to believe something before it happens, but when you assume you're not really sure. If someone bangs on your door in the middle of the night, you might assume it's your crazy neighbor. If your neighbor knocks on your door every night at 6:30, at 6:29 you can presume she's coming over in a minute.
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hone/ home

To hone is to sharpen a knife or perfect a skill. Home is where you live, where your stuff is, is where the heart is, and all that.
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exalt/ exult

To exalt, means to glorify or elevate something, but to exult is to rejoice. Exalt your favorite pro-wrestler, Jesus, or your status in the world. Exult when you get the last two tickets to see your favorite band.
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accept/ except

To accept is to receive, and except is to exclude, usually. Both are busy little words skipping around to different meanings, but they never run into each other. read more...

assure/ ensure/ insure

Although these three often show up at the same party, giving hugs, they’re not the same, thank you very much. To assure is to tell someone everything’s ok, to ensure is to make certain, and to insure is to protect financially. Have it straight now? Are you sure? read more...

venal/ venial

Catholics everywhere are confused: do they commit venal sins or venial sins? And what is a venal/venial sin anyway? read more...

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