Misused and Misspelled Words

I got an email today from the editor at Noble, with an updated “Pre-Edits worksheet.” While a bunch of it is the same, there are quite a few more things I need to look at again. I did chuckle through some of it, as I read about things that bug me as well when I come across them. And of course, it means a bit more work for me as I go back over things, but I found it a really helpful guide. I also realized my comma usage is what could be considered by some to be “old-fashioned.” But what I really liked a lot were the lists at the end.

The first was about 6 pages of commonly misspelled and misused words. Thankfully, as I read through that, those weren’t an issue for me. Spelling and word usage is one of those things that has always come easy to me, in fact, whenever anyone in the office needs to spell something, they ask me. I can think of one time in the last 14 years where I’ve been wrong, though I’m sure there were a couple of others, that instance is the only that sticks out in my head. Sadly, I’ve seen many of the words on the list misused in published works.

But the list I really liked was the one comprised of compound words. One in particular that caught my eye was “all right.” I know it’s common today to use “alright” and it is in the dictionary, although indicated as Non-Standard, but that has always been one of my particular peeves. I never ever ever use “alright.” It goes back to the days when Sister Maureen was my English teacher in freshman year, and she was absolutely adamant that “alright” was not a word. Along with “alot.” I see that often and it makes me cringe. It is two words – a lot. MS Word even auto-corrects it. I laughed at some of the phrases specific to erotic romance – this is not a list I’m going to share with my daughter when she’s doing her homework, that’s for sure!

The list didn’t include home/hone in. I have always thought the expression was “hone in,” but I see and hear “home in” all the time. Or this one – I was always raised with the expression “buck naked.” Not “butt naked.” Technically, I suppose both are correct, but which is “right?”

Any other words or phrases that bug you or that you’ve heard used one way, and learned they were meant to be used another? Language is constantly evolving, but I wonder if some of the changes dilute or alter the meaning. Certainly some of the phrases in use today that originated generations or even centuries ago, would not have the same meaning as when they were first used.

And lastly, a Happy New Year to all my friends celebrating today.

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6 thoughts on “Misused and Misspelled Words

  1. Jeannie, Alright makes me want to tear the book into pieces. I can't help marking down scores eevery time I see that. I know it's becoming accepted but never by me. I'd like to see that list of words.

  2. I don't mark down on it, since it is “accepted” so much these days, and I figure I'll get arguments about it. But it's as bad as nails on a chalkboard for me, I cringe whenever I see it. Good old Sister Maureen, I can still hear her with her faint Irish brogue, she was ferocious about it – she *would* mark anyone down who used it.

    She read the first novel I wrote when I was 14 and told me I should publish it. Not that it was even close to being any sort of quality, but she was the one who first made me think of writing as a career.

  3. I don't mind “alright” but I can't stand “alot”! I know this is probably so elementary, but I *still* have trouble with knowing when to use it's vs its. I know it's is 'it is' (how's that for a mouthful?)but what is 'its'? As for commas, my publisher pretty much deletes them all, along with all my exclamation points! Oops, did it again 🙂

  4. “Its” is the possessive – its hair. I think it's confusing (haha) because there's nor apostrophe at the end. It is would be it's hair. That's actually one of my strong points, there/their/they're and too/to/two. I rarely get those wrong. And when I see the wrong one in use, I want to throw whatever it is I'm reading!

    Exclamation points, however are one of my weak points, too! 😉 LOL See you tomorrow?

  5. I'm under the impression publishing houses vary on certain spelling and style issues. Whenever I'm unsure if something should be a compound word I usually Google it. Nine times out of ten it comes up both ways.

    Re: Exclamation points. I once read an editor's blog where she wrote: Every time you use an exclamation point you kill a kitten. (And still I can't help myself!)

  6. Hi Wendy!

    To some extent, I think the style issue/house preference is true, but for the most part, I also think correct spelling is correct spelling. The dictionary I had showed “alright” as correct and acceptable, but non-standard. So it would fall in that gray area. That's a perfect example – my publisher prefers the use of “gray” instead of “grey.” Which I now have to fix! 😀

    But it drives me absolutely batty when a word is blatantly misused. For an extreme example, taught/taut. I have seen the wrong one in places, and even, with very young or very new writers, “taunt” for “taut!” Best was a contest entry, that instead of winch, used wench. Changed the meaning of the scene drastically! LOL!

    But I hear it when people speak, and they're not just mispronouncing, they're using the actual wrong word and don't have a clue.

    Angela James gives an awesome self-editing workshop, and she addresses the exclamation point issue. After her lesson on it, I did as she instructed and searched for them. I had over 1400 in one ms, and half that in another. Of course, I went a little overboard and got rid of all of them, and then had to add some back in. So I couldn't save all the kittens, but I saved some! And I sure killed a few here! LOL!

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