The vial errors in modern newspaper writing

This post was inspired by a media friend who spotted an error in a mainstream newspaper – an article  about students buying “viles of drugs from overseas” – confusing the words vial and vile.


I argue that many people who still read newspapersdead-tree papers  or online versions  – know and care about reporters using the correct words.

I understand that smart, young reporters are skilled in so many ways that previous generations of journalists were not.

Yet many young writers do not know the difference between similar words – vial/vile, peer/pier, piece/peace and even weather/whether.

To be fair – I don’t know the age of the person who made the VILE/VIAL error. It could have been an older writer!

I just know that I often need to help younger reporters remember the correct words to use. They were not taught what previous reporters were taught as “the basics”.

I still argue that – for business and credibility reasons – it’s worth educating writers (younger and older) in how to choose the correct words from confusing sound-alike or look-alike words.


A friend of mine developed a visual learning resource to help her daughter who had a learning challenge.

She used the “memorable grossness” of stepping in Elephant poo to convey the meaning of VILE.


So remember – the Elephant poo version is with VILE with the E!

I remember “the other vial”  – by remembering it as a  smAll, nArrow contAiner.


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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.



tony biancotti


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