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Detract vs. Distract

August 2016
Spot the Error

The wilting flowers near the front porch distracted from the beauty of the home.

This explanation promises to be distracting, so stay with me.

In one sense of the word, distract means to befuddle or confuse. In another sense, it means to draw away or divert, specifically one’s attention. Example:

Frequent notifications from Twitter and Snapchat distracted Jocelyn and kept her from writing her report.

People become distracted; not things.

The appropriate word for the “flower” sentence above is the sound-alike detracted. Detracted means to diminish, lessen or reduce, and is accompanied by the preposition “from.” So, the wilted flowers detracted from (or diminished) the beauty of the home.

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