Grammar

Canvas or Canvass? Is Paint Involved?

It’s time to check out the difference between two more homophones so you’ll know whether to use canvas or canvass and make the right choice!

You’re writing up a storm and you come to a question of correctly choosing canvas or canvass. You’re the victim of homophone confusion.

Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings, and this pair of words that come down to a single letter of difference are perfect candidates to confuse you.

So let’s separate the confusion between these two words.

Canvas

Canvas can refer to a thick cotton or heavy linen material that has been used to make everything from tents to sails. My dad loves sailing, so he’d be upset if I didn’t mention the sailboat reference. He’s also an artist, so he’d want me to mention that canvas is stretched over a frame for an artist to use as a surface for paints or pastels.

Figuratively, it means a clean slate on which someone will craft a plan: such a plan is said to begin the proverbial “blank canvas.”

It can also be the fictitious world of a literary work, movie or television show. A soap actor who is departing a show, for example, can be said to be “written off the canvas” of the program.

It can also be the material that covers the floor of a boxing or wrestling ring.

Canvass

The word canvass is a verb, and I’m sure you’ve heard it used before, even if it doesn’t immediately come to mind.

It means to solicit votes, opinions or details from a group of people. Nearly every police procedural that has ever hit the airwaves has, at some point, referred to detectives “canvassing the area” as they work to figure out whodunit.

Volunteers with a political campaign may well choose to canvas a neighborhood to build up support for the person they want to see in office.

It can also mean to examine thoroughly, as in items on an agenda that could be canvassed by a city council.

So now you know the difference between canvas and canvass.

If you’re referring to some sort of material, it’s canvas with one S.

If you’re studying something or searching for answers, consider the first letter of studying and searching and add that letter to the end of canvas and you have canvass.

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Patrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.