Shutter and Shudder

So far I’ve found it only in amateur blogs, fan fiction, and forum comments, but there does seem to be a creeping tendency for some English speakers to confuse the words shutter /[shuht-er/ and shudder /shuhd-er/ in writing.

she threw her arms around his neck, emotion shuttering through her.

There was a sickness right in the family/While I shuttered in the cold (song lyrics)

The night was eery and quiet, the only sounds were snoring cats and shuttering trees.

The airplane shuttered in the turbulence.

As a noun, shutter usually refers to a movable wooden or iron panel applied to the outside or inside of a window to shut out the light or protect the interior of a building. People with beach houses might put up shutters during the winter.

As a verb, shutter means to put shutters up in order to shut something out, either literally or figuratively. People in Florida shutter their houses when a violent storm is expected.

The noun shudder refers to an involuntary movement of the body caused by fear, disgust, or chill. Stepping onto a cold tile floor with bare feet might provoke a shudder.

As a verb, shudder means to move tremulously. One might shudder while walking through a graveyard at night.

NOTE: It cannot be said too often: Beware of what you read online! I actually found one forum comment in which the word shutter is given the definition that belongs to shudder.

When it comes to usage, don’t trust generic online dictionaries or usage guides. You certainly don’t want to repeat what you read as “fact” in readers’ comments. My main go-to dictionaries are the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster Unabridged For questions of usage, I refer to the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press stylebook.

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M. J. Maddox, PhD 
is the American English Doctor.  
 

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