'Conscience' Versus 'Conscious'

Albert Einstein can help you remember the difference between your conscience and being conscious.

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read
The Quick And Dirty

Remember that "conscience" ends with the word "science."


I don’t know about you, but I always have to think for a second when I’m trying to write the words “conscious” and “conscience.” So I finally came up with a Quick and Dirty Tip to help me get it right.

First, let’s do the definitions.


You are conscious when you are awake and conscious of something when you are aware of it. I like this quotation from the novelist Aldous Huxley:

Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.


On the other hand, your conscience tells you the difference between right and wrong. You have something on your conscience when you feel guilty. Leaders sometimes ask politicians to vote their conscience. I like this quotation from the newspaper columnist Doug Larson:

A lot of people mistake a short memory for a clear conscience.

Quick and Dirty Tip

Here’s how I remember the spelling of “conscience.” 

The word “conscience” ends with “science”—S-C-I-E-N-C-E—even though it’s not pronounced that way. So picture Albert Einstein—a physicist and mathematician who was interested in both science and philosophy—sitting on your shoulder and prodding you to do the right thing. The man of science appeals to your conscience

That works for me every time, so I hope it works for you.

Arkady Mazor / Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

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