Peak vs. Peek (vs. Pique) - Grammar Rules

Knowing the difference between peek and peak piqued my interest. Here are the differences explained in a simple, easy-to-understand way.
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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.

[Want more? Click here for additional Grammar Rules.]

"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?

Want other Grammar Rules? Check out:
Sneaked vs. Snuck
Who vs. Whom
Lay vs. Lie vs. Laid 
Which vs. That
Since vs. Because
Ensure vs. Insure
Home in vs. Hone in
Leaped vs. Leapt

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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 bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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