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Get to the Point!

Accent on the Wrong Syll-ah-buhl?

By Theda C. Snyder

Many words change meaning depending on how you pronounce them. If you suspect your pronunciation is off, check these examples.


Don’t you hate it when something comes out of your mouth that makes your listener hesitate or give you a funny look? One reason might be because you’ve mispronounced something. As Mike Meyers once pointed out, it could be you put the wrong emPHASis on the wrong sylLABle:

But I Know I Pronounced It Right!

Many words have different meanings depending on which syllable is said a bit more loudly. What is correct in one context in a different context just comes out weird. Here are some examples.


ADD-ress (noun) is how the post office gets you your mail. Add-RESS (verb) is when you turn your attention to an issue or orally present your position to someone, such as a judge.


AFF-ect (noun) is a psychological term for a feeling or emotion. Aff-ECT (verb) means to influence or cause a change. This double purpose for the same word is one of the reasons people conflate it with effect. Effect, the noun, means a result. Effect, the verb, means to cause a result. Thankfully, you can pronounce both versions of effect with the accent on the second syllable.


Dih-GEST (verb) is what you do to food. You might consult a DIE-gest (noun) for a compilation of the law.


Disease can be a FREE-quent (adjective) result for people who free-QUENT (verb) unsanitary locations.


The plaintiff became an IN-valid (noun) due to the accident. The lack of proper witnesses made the will in-VAL-id (adjective).


Pro-DUCE (verb) means to create something. A movie pro-DUCE-er (noun) brings together the components to create a film. PRO-duce (noun) refers to fruits and vegetables.

Suspect: If you are wary of something or someone, you sus-PECT (verb) something is wrong. A SUS-pect (noun) is a person who may have committed a crime. A questionable thing may also be SUS-pect (adjective).

There’s a Bunch of Them

Many words change meaning depending on how you pronounce them, so you want to be sure you are doing it right. A dictionary that shows and even speaks multiple pronunciations without specifying which pronunciation goes with which meaning is useless for this purpose. To make sure you’re getting it right, you may have to turn to (gasp!) a print dictionary.

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Categories: Communications Skills, Get to the Point, Legal Writing, Public Speaking, Vocabulary
Originally published June 14, 2022
Last updated July 2, 2023
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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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