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Wave or Waive: Do You Know Which One to Use? Featured

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Wave or Waive: Do You Know Which One to Use?

It is no surprise that the English language (at least, as spoken by we Americans) is crammed full of words that turn our brains to mush when it comes to figuring out which word spelling to use, how to spell them, or just when exactly to use them.

Our school systems have long since abandoned the “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic” days when kids were given vocabulary lists and made to memorize spellings and learn definitions (“Class, there will be a quiz on Friday”…). And now that most people simply say “I’ll run spellcheck,” copies of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary lie untouched and collecting dust.

Well…it’s time to dust off the dictionary—and time to consider the sound-alike words wave and waive (these are also called homonyms or homophones). These words are not interchangeable (unlike some words like forego and forgo that so many people have misused for so long that Webster’s finally gave in and list that “forego” is a variant of “forgo”).

Wave or Waive—Which Do I Use?

In the spirit of “dust off your Webster’s” I’ll leave it to you to thumb the pages to locate each word and read its formal definition. However, here’s a quick review:

Wave can be a noun or a verb. As a noun a wave is ripple or cyclic cresting, usually of water (Surf’s up, dude! Remember it: Surfers crAVE a wAVE). As a verb, it means “Bye-bye!”

Waive, as a verb, means to set aside or pass over some kind of requirement (such as asking the bank to waive a set-up fee when you open a new account; remember it: If you want someone to forgIVE the fee, then you ask them to waIVE it). Waive is rarely a noun (you’d really have to stretch your sentence structure to force this to be a noun).

Waver or Waiver—OK, now my head hurts…

We do like to complicate things, don’t we?

Waver is a verb that means “to modulate” (like a tone that goes up and down. A waiver, which is a noun, is a formal acknowledgment (sometimes an actual document) that some requirement has been forgiven or forgone.

“My voice wavered while saying thank you when the bank manager gave me the waiver for the late fees on my boat payment.”

You can easily improve your command of the English language, and the myriad of colorful and distinctive words that can be used oh so appropriately in just the right place, by simply opening up your Webster’s once daily to a random page, blindly pointing to a spot, and then looking at what word you’ve selected. Remember the motto taught to me by my fourth grade teacher:

“Use a new word three times a day, and it’s yours for life.”

For help with other sound-alike words, and for more writing and grammar help, go to Jan’s Reading Room, and check out the “Grammar and Writing” and “Tutorials” sections (

Jan K., The Proofer is a freelance proofreader and copyeditor. Visit http://www.jansportal for more information about Jan’s proofreading and copyediting services and Jan's other free resources. Please visit Mom's Break ( for free printable crafts and projects. © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

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