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Grammar Granny        < Previous        Next >


Lose and Loose


Plenty of people mix up these two words. They look like LOSERS - people who are carelessly LOOSE with the old discipline!


To "lose" something is to come to be without it any more.


Something that is "loose" is something that is not fastened or attached.


It's probable that people simply don't realize these are two separate words - one with one "o" and one with two - because of the way we've been taught to read for the past generation or two. Kids are taught to quickly "scan" text to try to get the gist of it - the "whole language" approach to holistic reading. They aren't taught to read words based on matching the symbols they see with the sounds the letters make, all at lightning speed within their brains, of course.


But without that training in place - called "systematic, intensive, explicit phonics" -- they don't get the benefit of knowing that because it only has one "o," the sound that "lose" makes has a / z / on the end, which is distinctly different than the ending sound of "loose," with its two "o's," which ends with the sound of / s /.


The problem with whole language readers is that, in their haste, many children and, sadly, adults, see letters that aren't there, or skip seeing letters that ARE there. It's a big cause of the current epidemic of reading disabilities and bad reading habits that are wreaking havoc with everything from schoolwork to business productivity.


The "old" way, which is the best way, is to accurately decode each word from left to right. It becomes automatic, and you can go just as fast, if not faster, as a whole-language reader. The difference is, with phonics, your accuracy rate will be close to 100%, and you won't develop difficult-to-fix bad habits like mixing up "lose" and "loose."

But you can shake this habit. You can use a simple memory device to remember when you need one "o" and when you need two:


If you LOSE the "o," it won't even be a word any more.


And when the two "o's" are floating around and bumping into each other, they're LOOSE.



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 022 2006


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