Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

It never ceases to amaze me how many of these Grammar 101 posts are inspired by status updates on Facebook. Today is no exception. Now, it’s important to note that I’m not faulting any of my Facebook friends for making such errors, per se, so long as they endeavor to avoid making the same mistakes again. You wouldn’t want to be seen as a chipped coffee cup, would you?

The most common errors that I see usually have to do with words that sound exactly the same way, but have entirely different meanings. Capitol and capital is a good example. Thanks to the wonders of the automatic spell checking utility, these kinds of errors can easily go unnoticed. And this is particularly common among words that aren’t used all that often, as would be the case with aisle and isle.

An aisle is a passageway. It could refer to the aisle between rows of seats, like how you would find in an airplane cabin or as you get to your seat at a hockey game. It could also be like the grocery aisle at the supermarket. That’s when you’d hear the announcement for a “cleanup on aisle 12” over the loudspeaker.

  • The Cheerios are in the cereal aisle.
  • Patricia walked down the aisle as the music played.
  • Kurt prefers the aisle seat over the window seat.

An isle is an island. More specifically, an isle usually refers to a small island and it can sometimes be used interchangeably with the word “islet” too. As far as I can tell, there is no hard and fast rule about how small the island needs to be in order to be called an isle. Oddly, I’ve also seen the word “isle” used to refer to a peninsula.

  • The British Isles are made up of over 6,000 islands.
  • Jonas retired on the Isle of Wight.
  • After crashing his ship, the pirate swam to the nearest isle.

The words aisle and isle are pronounced the same way as the word I’ll, though I would imagine not too many people would confuse the contraction of “I will” for a passage or an island. Please don’t prove me wrong.