Grammar Minute – Discreet Discrete Data

One common misspelling I used to teach my math students about was the difference between discrete and discreet (here’s a hint: one of them is commonly used in math). 

So what is the difference?
Discreet means careful or secretive (related to discretion).
Discrete means separate or distinct (this is the one used in math).

Here’s my trick: in “discrete,” the “e”s are separated by the t, so it means separate. In “discreet,” the “e”s are next to each other, able to whisper secrets to each other unobtrusively 🙂

Examples:

  • I had seven discrete ideas for the party.
  • You aren’t being very discreet.
  • Are those discrete sections, or are they mixed together?
  • She is known for being discreet in her questioning.

As always, the more you practice finding and fixing this error, the more natural it’ll feel to use the correct word next time. 

Your “homework”:

  1. Pick one (unedited) book to check. 
  2. Search for “discreet” and “discrete.” If the wrong word is used, fix it!
  3. If you aren’t able to find these words in the book you’re checking, try writing a few sentences with each word instead to practice.
  4. Enjoy the feeling of knowing your book is even better than it was before!

Paige K

What are your grammar hang-ups? Let me know, and you may see them featured in future blog posts.

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