Confusing words

Confusing words: D

(Fourth in the series)

Many people aren’t sure of the difference in meaning between discrete and discreet or don’t realise that they are two different words.

Discrete means separate, distinct or apart. You can have discrete manufacturing (the production of individual items such as cars or phones, which differs from process manufacturing – for example salt or oil). You can see discrete characteristics within a species or between species. You can plot discrete variables on a graph. You might have a discrete space in your house that you use as a workspace.

If you’re discreet, that means that you’re careful and prudent in your speech or actions; you keep things confidential; you’re secretive or circumspect. Or maybe you’re intentionally unobtrusive (“a discreet cough”).

You can read about the difference between discrete and discreet and a whole lot more, in the Clifford & Co editorial style guide.