Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

When two words basically sound the same, it’s understandable that people can have some difficulty differentiating between the two. This results in a number of spelling mistakes, partly because the mistake won’t be picked up as an error in a standard computer spellcheck. One such pairing is “dual” and “duel,” which happen to be entirely different words.

Dual is a term that relates to the number two. It is usually used to described something that is composed of two parts. In the case of dual ownership, the object is owned by two people. The CyberPower TRV1918 has dual USB charging ports, meaning that it has two of them.

Similarly, you could say that a product has a dual purpose, a worker serves a dual role, or a smartphone is powered by a dual core processor.

While Duel can still involve two parties, that is not its meaning. Instead, a “duel” typically refers to an organized contest between two people who are engaging in deadly combat. Two knights can engage in a duel to win the affection of a maiden.

The traditional meaning of a duel would involve a battle to the death, but a fencing match can also be referred to as a duel. The term can arguably extend beyond the context of combat to include a range of different competitions, but that’s a less standard usage.

Just as affect and effect are only separated by a single letter, dual and duel can be equally troublesome. Thankfully, you now know the difference.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 topic? Are there any particular words, phrases, or sentence structures that give you grief? Let me know through the comments below and I’ll do my best to clarify.