How big a difference can one letter make? Well, if it's a choice between having a \u201cbowl of chili\u201d or a \u201cbowel of chili,\u201d we\u2019re pretty sure which one we\u2019d pick.\n\n[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="327"] Definitely preferable. (Image: Carstor\/wikimedia)[\/caption]\n\nLikewise, confusing \u201cproscribe\u201d and \u201cprescribe\u201d in your written work, although less painful, would be pretty disastrous. This is because \u201cproscribe\u201d and \u201cprescribe\u201d are actually opposites, despite looking similar written down. Make sure you know what each words means.\nProscribe (To Forbid)\nTo \u201cproscribe\u201d something is to forbid it or make it illegal, usually because it\u2019s harmful:\nThe sale of alcohol was proscribed throughout the United States.\n\n\n[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="399"] Not everyone took the ban that seriously, though...[\/caption]\n\nWhile \u201cproscribe\u201d is a verb, the noun form is \u201cproscription\u201d (i.e., a ban upon something) and the adjective is \u201cproscriptive\u201d (i.e., the quality of banning something).\nPrescribe (To Make a Rule)\nAs mentioned above, \u201cprescribe\u201d is the opposite of \u201cproscribe.\u201d As such, it means \u201cset down as a rule\u201d and applies mainly to recommending something:\nSafety guidelines prescribe wearing protective goggles.\n\n\n[caption id="attachment_2398" align="aligncenter" width="350"] Or "doggles," if you're of the canine persuasion.[\/caption]\n\nAnother common use of \u201cprescribe\u201d is in medicine, where it refers to approving a course of treatment:\nIt turned out it was an allergy, so the doctor prescribed antihistamines.\nIn both cases, the noun form is \u201cprescription.\u201d Something which sets down rules to be followed, meanwhile, can be described as \u201cprescriptive\u201d (like how this blog post is \u201cprescriptive\u201d about using the word \u201cprescribe\u201d).\nProscribe or Prescribe?\nIt\u2019s understandable that these words get confused, because the prefixes \u201cpro-\u201d and \u201cpre-\u201d can both mean \u201cbeforehand\u201d or \u201cin advance.\u201d\n\nThis is how they\u2019re used in \u201cproscribe\u201d and \u201cprescribe,\u201d since both words refer to setting down rules to govern behavior. The difference is that \u201cproscribe\u201d means setting down rules about what not to do, while \u201cprescribe\u201d means setting rules for recommended behavior. Remember:\nProscribe = Forbid or make illegal\nPrescribe = Recommend or set as a rule\nKeep in mind that the \u201cpro-\u201d in \u201cproscribe\u201d is the same as in \u201cprohibit,\u201d which also means to \u201cforbid\u201d or \u201cban\u201d something.\n\nLikewise, if you think of a doctor\u2019s prescription pad, you can remember that \u201cprescribe\u201d means \u201crecommend a course of action\u201d.