Every week I will demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the one intended. Sometimes this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence. Unfortunately, the mistake is usually so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television.
Altar / Alter
This is a fairly straightforward one but I have seen people confuse them often enough to think it warrants its own article. One is a noun and one is a verb; one is to do with religion, the other is not. Despite that they are pronounced identically, they are very different.
Altar – A table or a shrine in a place of worship that is the centrepiece of a religious ceremony or marriage.
Alter – To change something.
I have been thinking about how to remember the difference. Here’s what I came up with: You alter the vowel for alter. A bit rubbish, but the best I can do under the circumstances. Oh, and perhaps “A for absolution”?