Commonly Confused Words: Emit and Omit

emit and omit
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The verbs emit and omit look and sound similar (as do the corresponding nouns emission and omission), but their meanings are quite different. 

Definitions

The verb emit means to send out, throw off, give voice to, or issue with authority. The noun emission refers to something produced, discharged, given off, or put into circulation.

The verb omit means to leave out or fail to do something. The noun omission refers to something that has been left out or excluded.

Examples

  • "Every few seconds his eyes would close tightly and he would emit a strange sound, like a gasp of horror."
    (John Boyne, Stay Where You Are and Then Leave, 2014)
     
  • "E-cigarettes emit chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other harm."
    (Associated Press, "Some Fear California's Tax on e-Cigarettes May Deter Smokers." The New York Times, November 26, 2016)
     
  • "Cities produce more than 60% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, according to a United Nations report."
    (Justin Worland, "Exclusive: Why These Cities Are Leading on Clean Energy." Time, August 10, 2016)
     
  • Give complete answers on the exam. Don't omit important details and relevant information.
     
  • "[Marilyn Monroe] had been careful to omit the word obey from their marriage vows because she had no intention of giving up her career or deferring all important decisions to her husband."
    (Jeffrey A. Kottler, Divine Madness: Ten Stories of Creative Struggle. Jossey-Bass, 2006)
     
  • "Cerberus is a hideous monster who emits intense heat and a pestilential stench from nose and ears. His coat is very rough and it is covered with live serpents which hiss and writhe. . . . The physical symptoms of Cerberus's illness are very similar to those described in Priester Wernher and in Tatian, if one omits the serpents: insane frenzy, intense heat, stench, slavering, rough skin, putridity."
    (Mary R. Gerstein, "Germanic Warg: The Outlaw as Werwolf." Myth in Indo-European Antiquity, 1974)
     
  • "[P]erhaps the problem with Kyoto was simply the omission of both the United States and China from the cooperating group . . .. As it turns out, it would be virtually impossible for a group of countries to deliver a global ceiling on emissions without the cooperation of the others."
    (Stephen M. Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. Oxford University Press, 2011) 

Usage Notes

  • "Mit means 'send,' and so when something is emitted, it is sent out, let out, or discharged. To transmit something is to send it across (remember that trans means 'across' and mit means 'to send out'). . . . When you omit something, you forget to send it."
    (Ruth Foster, A Word a Week. Teacher Created Resources, 1999)
     
  • More About Word Roots and Affixes
    "Knowing about allomorphy . . . helps us to recognize morphemes when meaning doesn't give a sufficient clue to their identity. Take the list of words transmit, emit, permit, admit, commit, remit, omit, and assume for the moment that we knew nothing about Latin. We may get the vague feeling that these words have in common the idea of causing something to move, and therefore we might want to conclude that the morph mit is a form of a morpheme that means 'cause to move' or 'send.' . . .

    "Notice what happens when we try adding the suffixes -tion and -tive to these words:
    transmit, transmission, transmissive
    emit, emission, emissive
    permit, permission, permissive
    admit, admission, admissive
    commit, commission, commissive
    remit, remission, remissive
    omit, omission, omissive
    The change of final t to ss before these suffixes [is] another piece of evidence that mit has something in common in all these words and can therefore be considered one morpheme."
    (Keith Denning, Brett Kessler, and William R. Leben, English Vocabulary Elements, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2007)


    Practice

    (a) "If you _____ something from a quotation, indicate the deletion with ellipsis marks, three periods preceded and followed by a space ( ... )."
    (Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd ed. Hackett, 2013)

    (b) "The social caterpillars of the Red Cracker _____ a foul odor."
    (Sharman Apt Russell, An Obsession With Butterflies, 2009)

    (c) "I have decided to ____ eggs and soufflés, since I have nothing new to say about them."
    (Julia Child, quoted by Noel Riley Fitch in Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, 1999)

    Answers to the practice exercises

    (a) "If you omit something from a quotation, indicate the deletion with ellipsis marks, three periods preceded and followed by a space ( ... )."
    (Michael Harvey, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd ed. Hackett, 2013)

    (b) "The social caterpillars of the Red Cracker emit a foul odor."
    (Sharman Apt Russell, An Obsession With Butterflies, 2009)

    (c) "I have decided to omit eggs and soufflés, since I have nothing new to say about them."
    (Julia Child, quoted by Noel Riley Fitch in Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, 1999)