Commonly Confused Word Pairs: High/tall

June 28, 2007: Issue 194

When you want to indicate the position of a ceiling, remember to say how high it is—not how tall.

High refers to a fixed position distant from the floor or ground. That means the object you’re describing does not touch the ground:
a 25-foot-high ceiling
a ceiling that slopes from 12 to 18 feet high

Tall refers to a measurement from the floor or ground up. The object or distance you’re measuring starts at the floor or ground:
a 25-foot-tall tree
a stone wall that slopes from 12 to 18 feet tall

In general, a single room has a single ceiling:
the living room ceiling
the kitchen ceiling

Use the plural form only when you refer to multiple spaces:
cove ceilings throughout the main level
popcorn ceilings popular in the 1970s

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