You're probably guilty.
Everyone's guilty of their one or two things they do wrong when they write; most people have those few words they can never remember how to spell or those conditional words that they have a hard time using correctly. Of course, as an editor, if I'm aware of a mistake I make or have made, I get set taking care of it right away.
That said, it actually bothers me a lot more when someone who writes well has a misused word or typo than it does if someone just can't spell at all. Maybe because if someone is a writer or a highly educated person whose education or job requires lots of written communication, I just plain expect more from that person?
So, this is a list of sins I see people committing all the time. These are mistakes good writers still make. Yes, probably even you.
Avoid these writing/spelling/usage pitfalls and make your friendly neighborhood swankivy a happier editor bitch. Thank you.
- Using "lead" when you mean "led." "Lead" is only pronounced to rhyme with "red" when you're talking about the metal. Don't use it as a past tense of "lead" (rhymes with "reed"). Maybe "read" being the past tense of "read" is confusing y'all?
- Using "free reign" when you mean "free rein." I see this CONSTANTLY. Probably because "free reign" makes a bit of sense (like, freedom to rule). But check me if you want. It's "free rein," as in, freed from the tethers.
- Using "pour" when you mean "pore." I see this ALL the time. You don't "pour over" your science notes. You "pore" over them.
- Using "phased" when you mean "fazed." I think some people just don't know that "fazed" exists. A loud blast or disturbing news will faze you, not phase you. Phasing is for going through things. And Star Trek weapons.
- Using "peeked" or "peaked" when you mean "piqued." Interest is "piqued," guys. I guess this has gotten popularity because interest peeking out or interest reaching its highest point makes a certain bit of sense. But in this instance, you want "piqued," meaning "excite or arouse."
- Using "pre-madonna." I guess some people think a person of this description is gearing up to become a "madonna," but isn't there yet? The phrase is prima donna. Italian for "first lady."
- Using "persay." Don't. It's per se. Another one of those Latin jobs. It means "by itself."
- Spelling "certainty" as "certainity." I promise you there's no "-ity" at the end. It's just "-ty" after "certain."
- Using "adieu" when you mean "ado." "Adieu" means bye-bye in French. "Ado" is the one that means a fuss and a hubbub.
- Using "bonafied" when you mean "bona fide." I promise you it's not a compound word. One of those tricky Latin phrases.
- "Callous" vs. "callus." Another one nobody seems to understand. You're callous if you're unfeeling and maybe rude. You have a callus on your finger if you write a lot. If you've got barefooted people running around, their feet are not "calloused." (Some people say this is a debatable one, though.)
- Using "it's" as a possessive. People who THINK they know the difference between "its" and "it's" still screw this up all the time. Think of "its" the same as you think of "his" and "hers." It's the same. You wouldn't write "hi's" when describing something belonging to "him," would you?
- Using "baited breath" when you mean "bated breath." I really hope your breath doesn't contain bait.
- Using "boldface" or "bold-faced" lie. The original phrase was "barefaced lie," and now some people say "baldfaced" or "bald-faced lie," but it's never "bold."
- Using "all intensive purposes." I swear to you. Don't write this.
- Using "just assume" when you mean "just as soon." Don't write this either. You don't say "I'd just assume stay home and watch movies." It's "as soon."
- Using "beckon call" instead of "beck and call." It's not beckon. Really.
- Using "lightening" when you mean "lightning." "Lightening" is a word, but it means "making lighter." It doesn't mean the electricity from the sky.
- Using "throws" instead of "throes." As in, of passion. It's "throes." What're you throwing?
- Using "shoe-in" instead of "shoo-in." This is not about footwear.
- Misusing "alumni." This is a PLURAL word. You are an alumnus, or you are an alumna if you want to specify being female for some reason. (Women can also be referred to by "alumnus.") "Alumni" is more than one alumnus. (There is also "alumnae," if you want the plural of "alumna.") Don't ever say "I'm an alumni!" I will ask you where your other self is, or perhaps assume you are referring to yourself from the same standpoint as those who use the royal "we."
- Using "nonplussed" to describe a blasť, calm, unruffled attitude. Maybe it's the "non" prefix, but this word MEANS YOU ARE CONFUSED AND DISTURBED. Don't believe me? Look it up.
- Using "teaming" when you mean "teeming." If the lake is teeming with leeches, I'm not taking my team over there, mmkay?
- "Straight" vs. "strait." We have straight pins, straight lines, and straight hair. But we have straitjackets, strait-laced (or straitlaced) people, and dire straits. You might see "straight" as a variant with "strait-laced," actually, but people misusing words pervasively is how "irregardless" got in the damn dictionary, so c'mon.
- Using "hair-brained" when you mean "harebrained." That saying is supposed to compare your mind to that of a bunny. It is not saying your brain is covered with hair.
- "Tow the line" instead of "toe the line." Yep, you toe it--poke it with your toe. You don't tow it anywhere.
- Using "undo" when you mean "undue." If you mean "not due," it's "undue." You can't have "undo alarm."
- Using "wet" when you mean "whet." If I have to watch you "wet" your appetite, I'll leave the room.
- Writing "sherbert," "expresso," "segway," or "Haley's Comet." The iced treat is "sherbet" (no R). The hot drink is "espresso" (no X). The verb that means "moving on to what follows" is "segue" (yes, Latin again). The comet is "Halley's" (not one L--dude's name was Edmond Halley).
Take my Language Mistakes Test!
Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.
Comments from others:
It's a good job youtube doesn't have an equivalent of a red marker.... people like
you asnd I could spend all day correcting everyones smelling pistakes!!!
Sometimes you get someone who puts up a really inciteful comment.... but you miss it
because you'rer screaming "ARRRG! Learn to spell you muppet!!"
My most annoying ones are the there/their/they're and were/we're/where...
Were these people sleeping during basic English classes, or is it just a symptom of
bad schooling where teachers just don't think that spelling is important anymore?!
Another annoying one... the word 'light' seems to be sponsored by Miller, and comes
with 20% less letters!!
Pedro: I honestly thought the correct form was "a shoe-in", as in, "he has a shoe
in the door" (meaning he is almost where he wants to be".
So 'he's a shoe-in for MVP", I took it, meant "he is halfway to MVP" (has that one
shoe in the door, if you would). Apparently not.
Also, a segway is a sort of cross between a pogo-stick and a push-scooter that
people (usually policepeople) ride around in looking like complete dorks.