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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lightening vs Lightning

Today we had a customer discover a typo on a project we have been reprinting for them for years.  It was the word lightening instead of lightning.  This is one of those errors that spell check won't catch - and apparently many editors and printers miss it too.

I found the following article by Laura K. Lawless that enlightened me in lightning speed regarding the use of these words.

Lightening vs Lightning

The English words lightening and lightning are only one letter apart in spelling and pronunciation, but worlds apart in meaning. The lightning bolt of comprehension you get after reading this lesson will start lightening your confusion.


Lightening is the present participle of the verb "to lighten," and refers to the process of making something lighter in color. Lightening is the opposite of darkening, or making something darker.

I'm lightening my jeans by adding bleach to the wash. The dark blue will become light blue.
He's lightening the room by painting it white.

also refers to the process of making something lighter in weight. Lightening is the opposite of making something heavier.

By using more plastic in place of metal, and thereby lightening cars, we can get better gas mileage.
The trick to lightening a cake is using beaten egg whites.


Lightning is a noun - it refers to the meteorological phenomenon that is followed by thunder.

Lightning tends to strike the tallest thing in its vicinity.
The lightning storm caused the forest fire.

The Bottom Line

The confusion between lightening and lightning is due to their similar spelling and pronunciation. Just remember that to be quick like lightning, you need to lighten your load by leaving out the e.

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