Skip to main content
Publish date:

Slight of Hand vs. Sleight of Hand

Learn when it's appropriate to use slight of hand vs. sleight of hand with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct and incorrect usages.

Learn when it's appropriate to use slight of hand vs. sleight of hand with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct and incorrect usages.

Image placeholder title

There is an important distinction between these two phrases that could be a compliment (or warning) in one case and a slight in the other. Let's look at the slight differences in slight of hand vs. sleight of hand.

Slight of Hand vs. Sleight of Hand

Sleight of hand refers to the manual dexterity of someone's hands, motions, and deception. The phrase specifically means "quick fingers" or "trickster fingers." It's a phrase often used to refer to magicians and some street performers (or con man)--usually with close-up card tricks, though more entertainers are beginning to use other objects like smart phones.

(Click here to view some sleight of hand in real time and in slow motion.)

Slight of hand, on the other hand, is a phrase that means a person has small hands. As such, it's probably a bit of a slight (or insult) to use this phrase for a person in the wrong context.

Make sense?

If not, here are a couple examples:

Correct: I can't believe the tricks performed at the magic show last night. That magician has incredible sleight of hand.
Incorrect: I can't believe the tricks performed at the magic show last night. That magician has incredible slight of hand.

Correct: George impressed us with his sleight of hand and what he could do with a pack of cards.
Incorrect: George impressed us with his slight of hand and what he could do with a pack of cards.

Could someone who is slight of hand become a master of sleight of hand? Possibly. But maybe they should use a smaller deck of cards (or coins).

Learn more in the online course, Grammar and Mechanics, from Writer's Digest University:

Image placeholder title
What Writers Should Know About High-End Weddings

What Writers Should Know About High-End Weddings

2022 is seeing the highest number of weddings in almost 40 years. With celebration on the mind, authors Asher Fogle Paul and Mary Hollis Huddleston offer 5 things writers should know about high-end weddings.

Mail's Here!

Mail's Here!

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, you've got mail.

Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson: On the Power of Creative Teamwork

Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson: On the Power of Creative Teamwork

Authors Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson discuss the benefits of working as co-authors and the process of writing the newest Presidential Agent novel, Rogue Asset.

5 Tips for Writing About Big Historical Events in Fiction

5 Tips for Writing About Big Historical Events in Fiction

Novelist Anna Stuart shares her top five tips for writing about big historical events in fiction so that the story stays front and center...and engaging.

Mantel vs. Mantle (Grammar Rules)

Mantel vs. Mantle (Grammar Rules)

This post looks at the differences between mantel and mantle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Agent Advice

Agent Advice: Analieze Cervantes of The Harvey Klinger Literary Agency

Agent Advice (this installment featuring Analieze Cervantes of The Harvey Klinger Literary Agency) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 4 WDU Courses, an Upcoming Webinar, Submission Deadline for Your Favorite Writing Websites, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce 4 WDU courses, an upcoming webinar on creating an author website, and more!

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

How To Find the Right Professional Editor for Your Writing

It's not enough to know when your manuscript is ready for a professional edit—it's knowing who is the right fit to do the editing. Here, Tiffany Yates Martin discusses how to find the right professional editor for your writing.

From Script

Understanding the Writer and Agent Relationship (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read an intimate interview with Verve Literary Agent and Partner David Boxerbaum about the state of the spec market, the relationship between a writer and agent, and more!