Word Confusion: Cite vs Sight vs Site

Posted February 3, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

It’s a sight for sore eyes when I have to cite an author for improper use of a site. And it happens much too often. In fact, it happens so often that I’m starting to get confused with this trio of heterographs. I need to create a base site from which I can rebuild my sense of what’s right.

In general, think of cite as something written while sight is something you look at or through. As for site, you can’t go wrong if you think of building, whether it’s an office tower, a stadium, a website, or where a physical object is located.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Cite Sight Site
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Citation Wizard” courtesy of
Wizards 4 Word

An example of formatting assistance in Citation Wizard (APA/MLA) when one must cite one’s sources.

“Sniperscope” is a U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan Walker (http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=14702), which is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking through the sight of a USMC sniper rifle’s scope at a practice range Camp Hansen.

“Building Site” courtesy of H.E.S.S. Project Chronology.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun: citations
Third person present verb: cites
Past tense or past participle: cited
Gerund or present participle: citing

Noun 2;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 3

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: sights
Past tense or past participle: sighted
Gerund or present participle: sighting

Noun 4; Verb, transitive 5

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: sites
Past tense or past participle: sited
Gerund or present participle: siting

A citation

Verb, transitive:
Quote from a passage, book, or author as evidence for or justification of an argument or statement, especially in a scholarly work

  • Mention as an example
  • Praise someone, typically a member of the armed forces, for a courageous act in an official dispatch
  • [Law adduce] A former tried case as a guide to deciding a comparable case or in support of an argument

[Law summon] Of someone to appear in a court of law 1

Faculty or power of seeing

Area or distance within which someone can see or something can be seen

A thing that one sees or that can be seen

Having a ridiculous, repulsive, or disheveled appearance

A device on a gun or optical instrument used for assisting a person’s precise aim or observation

Verb, intransitive:
Take aim by looking through the sights of a gun

  • Take a detailed visual measurement of something with or as with a sight

Verb, transitive:
Manage to see or observe someone or something

  • Catch an initial glimpse of
  • Adjust the sight of a firearm or optical instrument
Area of ground on which a town, building, or monument is constructed

  • A place where a particular event or activity is occurring or has occurred

A website

Short for building site

Verb, transitive:
Usually be sited

Fix or build something in a particular place
Yeah, I got a citation for speeding.

Verb, transitive:
Medics have been cited as a key example of a modern breed of technical expert.

The summons cited four of the defendants.

The sight of blood terrifies him.

You’re a sight for sore eyes!

Would you like to see the sights here in town?

Sights for rifles vary considerably.

Verb, intransitive:
She sighted down the barrel.

Verb, transitive:
Tell me when you sight London Bridge.

The unseasonal sighting of a cuckoo.

You’d better sight on your target.

Tell me when you sight shore!

She sighted down the gun barrel at her target.

Check out that site I told you about.

It’s the proposed site for a new power plant.

Have you been to the site of the Battle of Antietam yet?

Materials for repairs are always on site.

The site has no ads and is not being promoted with banners.

Some servers use cookies to track users from site to site.

Verb, transitive:
The rectory is sited behind the church.

Decisions must be made concerning the siting of nuclear power plants.

Adjective: citable, citeable, noncitable, nonciteable, uncitable
Noun: citation, citer
Adjective: sightable, sighted, sightless, sightly, sightworthy
Adverb: sightlessly
Noun: sighter, sighthound, sighting, sightlessness, sightliness, sightseeing, sightseer, undersight
Verb, transitive: resight, sight-read, sight-sing
Adjective: intersite
Verb, transitive: resite, resited
History of the Word:
1 Late Middle English
Originally with reference to a court of ecclesiastical law.

From the Old French citer, from the Latin citare, which is from ciere, cire meaning to call.

2 Old English for sight, face, appearance

3 Mid-16th century meaning to take aim, adjust the sight

4 Late Middle English for local position

5 Late-16th century

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Land Surveyor” is Random Guy of the Century’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license while the “Munich Oktoberfest Construction for Pschorr Festival” is Usien’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses, via Wikimedia Commons.