When it comes to elections, there are so many words people don’t quite use correctly. I’m not even talking about #fakenews. That’s another story—one worth digging into with all of your curiosity and truth-seeking passion. For now, though, I’m looking at you “few” versus “less,” and there are so many more examples.
- How do you spell it when people “canvas” / “canvass” a neighborhood?
- Or when we count the “amount of” vs. “number of” votes?
Yep, I’ve already covered a number of these, but today let’s look at the words “block” vs. “bloc”—another tricky pair that is muddled all of the time. These are two unique words, folks.
As we take the time to better understand the world around us and participate in making it a better place, it’s time to ensure we get this, among so many other things, right.
- A “bloc” is not a typo. It is a group, often temporary, acting together for a common purpose. Countries can make up a bloc. Legislators can make up a bloc. Voters can too.
- A “block” has multiple definitions. It is an obstacle, a solid rectangular piece of wood or another building material, or a rectangular section of a city or town surrounded on all sides by interconnected streets. These definitions seem to go on and on, but the one thing a “block” isn’t is that group acting together for a common purpose. If you’re seeing it used in that way, my friends, what you’re looking at is a typo.
When it comes to the history of these words, it won’t help much when it comes to telling them apart. Why? Because they both derive from the same French word, bloc. The difference is when they came into the English language. “Block” came into English in the 1400s, while “bloc” came centuries later in the early 1900s. And their meanings have always been unique.
Confused? Don’t be. “Block” is misused all of the time, when “bloc” is what a writer truly intends. These writers just frequently don’t know the difference. But ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s just messy. We can do better, and that’s what we’re out to do, right? Is there a bloc for that? Let’s make that happen.
Bonus writing tip: For those overly reliant on spellcheck, have confidence if you use the phrase “en bloc,” meaning “as a whole.” Just like usages of “en masse,” a phrase that shares nearly the same meaning, spellcheck will tell you it’s wrong every time, but sometimes a dignified turn of phrase not only elevates your communication, but it also makes you savvier than your software. Go, you.
You can block someone on social media, or you can be a force in a bloc setting out to collaborate, cooperate, and create a better world for us all. We have many options these days. Have at it, folks. Starting with your word choice is always a smart bet.
Join 1,000+ subscribers and sign up for my writing and editing email newsletter for more tips like this.