Q: For some reason I confuse “peak” and “peek” all the time. Is there a simple way to help differentiate the two so I can get it correct in the future? –Brian K.
A: OK, so I’m not sure if you noticed but I submitted this question myself. All writers have some kind of Achilles’ Heel, and confusing “peak” and “peek” is mine. Whether I’m writing a column, newsletter or tweet, I undoubtedly will choose the wrong word. It’s very embarrassing—almost as embarrassing as accidentally transposing letters in my name and signing e-mails “Brain.”
And it takes a certain talent to misspell your own name.
To get these words right, I first grabbed my handy dictionary to define the terms. “Peak” (with an A) has several meanings depending on its form. The most common uses include peak as a noun, which means “a high point,” and as a verb, which means “to reach a high point.” We climbed to the peak of the mountain. Ken Griffey, Jr.’s baseball skills peaked in the late ’90s.
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“Peek” (with a double E) means to take a brief look or catch a glimpse. I peeked at my ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page to see if she was married. If you peek in my cube you may notice that I’m not wearing pants.
While I understand the difference between the words, I’ve been looking for a mnemonic device to keep them straight for quite some time. Our intern, Jennifer Benner, provided one that not only solved this problem for me but is also easy to remember: The peak of a mountain is shaped like an A. But to peek you need your eyes, which has two Es.
And finally, if you confuse “pique” with the other two, remember that it’s a French word meaning “to stimulate.” My interest was piqued—is he really not wearing pants at work?
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog (The Writer’s Dig), the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.