Sharpen your word skills

1. Which sign is intended to discourage you from entering a building - "No Admission" or "No Admittance"?

2. Would you walk among your flowers or amid them?

3. If we talk between ourselves, are there two or more people engaged in conversation?

4. Which government office may be in a number of cities within a country - an embassy or a consulate?

5. Which is a more precise measure of time - a period or an epoch?

6. Which haven is primarily equipped for loading and unloading ships - a harbor or a port?

SOURCES: 'The Dictionary of Confusable Words,' by Laurence Urdang; The Random House Dictionary; Webster's Dictionary; The World Book Dictionary, 'Choose the Right Word,' by S.I. Hayakawa.


1. "No Admittance" means that entry is forbidden, at least to unauthorized personnel. "Admittance" is a term used mainly in the sense of right of entry. "Admission" often implies price. "No Admission" means there's no charge for entering.

2. "Among" them. The difference between "among" and "amid" is that the former refers to countable objects, like flowers, in this case. Amid is used for things that cannot be counted. For example, "He walked amid the rubble, but among his friends...."

3. "Between" is used when only two people or items are being considered, "among" is used for three or more. "Among the three of us, but "between" the two of us.

4. A nation maintains only one embassy in any one foreign country. A nation's consulates, on the other hand, may be located in several cities within the same country.

5. An epoch. Both a "period" and an "epoch" define passages of time. But "period" is a looser term and can refer to several minutes or many years. An epoch refers to a specific or self-contained time. An epoch usually indicates an event of such importance that it ushers in a whole new period in human history.

6. A "port" is a harbor of primarily commercial value, that is, with dock and port facilities. A "harbor" is known to be a safe shelter for ships from wind and waves, and deep enough for anchoring a vessel. A harbor does not, by definition, include onshore facilities for handling cargo, although in practice many now do.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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