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Is it Staring or Starring?

Have you ever had to stop and consider whether it is staring or starring?  If you do mix the two up, the spell-check application will often not catch the error, as both words are properly spelled in their own right. Spell-check is on the lookout for words that aren’t in its dictionary, as well as words that closely resemble words that are in the dictionary and are therefore recognized as misspelled. For that reason, it’s far from perfect, albeit quite handy and helpful in general. What it can’t do is guess which of the two legitimate words you were trying to use (at least for now!). Although with quickly developing AI (Artificial Intelligence), perhaps we are not too far away. But for now, it’s up to you to know the difference and use the correct word.  

With that said, let’s take a look at each word so there is no confusion:

Staring is the present continuous form of the verb “to stare.” Staring is what someone does when they are looking at something or someone for a long time. How long does one have to look for it to be considered “starring?” Well, long enough to be noticed! 

On the other hand, starring derives from the word “to star” – a word used in theatre, film, TV or web shows to express an actor/actress featured in a leading or important role. Think the Hollywood Walk of Fame and its stars.  

Graphing showing the red carpet with the caption "starring" and a man looking intently with the caption "staring"

Here are a few examples of staring:

Having never seen a real cowboy before, the kids were staring at Mike and his horse. 

She stared at him for a while before finally running over and hugging him. 

The dog stared at the fresh package from the butcher shop with eager anticipation. 

Here are a few examples of starring:

Have you seen the famous 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” starring Clark Gable?

There are many A-list actors starring in the latest Netflix film, “Don’t Look Up.”

It was her dream to be starring in a major Hollywood blockbuster one day. 

And lastly, here is a sentence that uses both words:

She was staring at the poster in disbelief, processing the fact that her childhood friend was starring in this upcoming action film.  

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By Audrey Horwitz

Audrey Horwitz holds a master's degree in communication and a bachelor's degree in business administration. She has worked with numerous companies as a content editor including Speechly, Compusignal, and Wordflow. Audrey is a prolific content writer with hundreds of articles published for Medium, LinkedIn, Scoop.It, and Article Valley.

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