Word Confusion: Shudder versus Shutter

Posted July 28, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I ran across a phrase in a book description: so-and-so”, is about to shudder his law practice”. I’m pretty sure he meant to write shutter, but the author may have had something else in mind and intended to use shudder to convey a mood, an atmosphere. But I’m not sure. And the wondering has shuttered my even wanting to read his story. I fear that I’ll run across more misspellings that take me out of the tale, and well, I simply shudder to think!

Consider the following:
He was about to shudder his law practice.

…create an upheaval, something that will make the law tremble.

He was about to shutter his law practice.

…on the verge of closing his business down.

I shudder to think!

I’m afraid to consider what could happen if…

I shutter to think!

I don’t want to think? I want to close off thinking?

He gives me the shudders.

I’m afraid of him.

He gives me the shutters.

Super! I’ll save all sorts of money.

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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Shudder Shutter
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: shudder and shutter

“Latrodectus mactans” courtesy of Kim and Wikimedia Commons

Hey, spiders make me shudder!

“French Shutters” courtesy of Ed g2s and Wikimedia Commons

French window shutters

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun 1; Verb, intransitive 2

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: shudders
Past tense or past participle: shuddered
Gerund or present participle: shuddering

Adjective; Noun 3;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 4

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: shutters
Past tense or past participle: shuttered
Gerund or present participle: shuttering


[Of a person’s breathing] Be unsteady, especially as a result of emotional disturbance

An act of shuddering

Verb, intransitive:
[Of a person] Tremble convulsively, typically as a result of fear or revulsion

  • [Especially of a vehicle, machine, or building] Shake or vibrate deeply

One who shuts (something)

Each of a pair of hinged panels, often louvered, fixed inside or outside a window that can be closed for security or privacy or to keep out light

  • A usually movable cover or screen for a window or door

[Photography] A device that opens and closes to expose the film in a camera

[Music] The blind enclosing the swell box in an organ, used for controlling the volume of sound

Verb, intransitive:
To close or close down

Verb, transitive:
To cover (a window) with shutters

To close a business, store, etc. for a period of time or forever

He drew a deep, shuddering breath.

The elevator rose with a shudder.

The peso’s devaluation sent shudders through the market.

He gives me the shudders.

Verb, intransitive:
I shuddered with horror.

The train shuddered and edged forward.

He drew a deep, shuddering breath.

She shuddered when the chill of the wind hit her.

I shudder to think what could happen.

barred and shuttered stores

We should close the hurricane shutters before the storm hits.

Drop the burglary shutters in place when you lock up.

I love the look of plantation shutters.

Our local shop put up the shutters for the last time.
What shutter speed should I use in a low-light situation?

Verb, intransitive:
The shop has shuttered temporarily.

Verb, transitive:
Corporations were shuttering their production plants as the economy dived.

They locked the doors and shuttered the windows.

They declared bankruptcy and shuttered the store.

Adjective: shuddering, shuddery

Adverb: shudderingly
Adjective: shutterless, unshuttered
History of the Word:
1 First known use: 1607

2 First known use: 13th century
Middle English shoddren from Middle Dutch schūderen, from Old High German skutten, meaning to shake and perhaps to Lithuanian kutėti meaning to shake up.

3 First known use: 1542

4 First known use: 1826

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:

I’ve done some twisting and tweaking of “Wood Shutters Help Mitigate Against Hurricane Jeanne” by Mark Wolfe, the photograph of which is from the FEMA Photo Library and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.