Good Wednesday morning! It’s the middle of the week, Hump Day, and also time for another edition of Words & Woes. 

I was reading another blog a few days ago — an excellent one — and the author used breath in a sentence when she obviously meant to use breathe.

These three words are not true homophones, but they’re near enough to cause difficulties.

Breath is the air that we take in and expel from our bodies. 

  • It’s so cold our breath looks like clouds.
  • Amy was really out of breath after her race!
  • She’s like a breath of fresh air, isn’t she?
  • To relax, take a slow, deep breath.


Breathe is the action we take to move that air: we inhale and exhale. It can also mean exposing something (like wine) to air in order to reach full aroma and flavor. One way to remember breathe (versus breath) is to hear the “e” sound in the word and see it at the end of the word. 

  • To relax, we need to breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Be sure to let the wine breathe before pouring it.
  • While exercising, it’s important to learn how to breathe properly.


Breadth has nothing to do with either of the two above, but it can sneak into our writing if we type too fast and hit “d” where we may not mean to. And of course, spellcheck’s only job is to check our spelling; it cannot tell us anything about our usage! Since breadth is a perfectly fine word meaning the width of something, the distance between points, or dimensions of something (all of which have a “d” in them), spellcheck will be happy with it! Of course, the writer might not be . . . 

  • The length and breadth of that room was amazing!
  • John’s breadth of knowledge in that field is greater than that of his peers.
  • The bay is about a mile in breadth.

I hope this helps, both with these three words and as a reminder to read what we’ve written before we hit “publish”!