When you want to comment on your friend’s baby or pet pictures on Facebook, what do you write? Misspelling the interjection aw as awe on social media and in text messages is something that both English language learners and native English speakers do. Since this is such a common term nowadays, let’s review the differences in spelling and meaning.
When your friend posts an adorable puppy picture on Instagram and you want to gush over how cute it is, the correct thing to write is aw, not awe.
Merriam-Webster defines aw as “used to express mild disappointment, gentle entreaty, or real or mock sympathy or sentiment.”
- Aw, your baby is so cute!
- A: Here’s a picture of my new kitten!
- A: You’re the best!
B: Aw, thanks!
- A: I had a terrible day.
B: Aw, I’m sorry to hear that.
Note that it is possible to use more ws to show more emphasis and emotion (awww), but this is very informal and should be limited to comments among friends in social media/texting situations. How many ws are too many? Generally speaking, the more ws used, the more emotion conveyed. It’s a similar situation to using more exclamation points to express emotion (!!!). Just remind students that more than one w or exclamation point is not “correct” grammar, so they should never use more than one in any type of formal writing.
Awe has a fairly strong meaning and is more on the formal side. It’s not a word that we use too often.
Merriam-Webster defines awe as “a strong feeling of fear or respect and also wonder.”
- I’m in awe of her generosity.
- She gazed at the Picasso in awe.
- The amount of international aid following the terrorist attack filled us with awe.
- They were awestruck at the size of the new statue.
In short, because aw is very common nowadays, we would do well to teach our students that when in doubt, use aw, not awe.