Why it’s not just about pressing Spellcheck.

I’m the first to admit it, I’m an english geek. I not only like writing in it, which is self evident, but I truly love everything about the english language. Speaking, reading, learning new words, word puzzles.. you name it, I’m somewhere getting overexcited about it. I can remember very clearly a meal I shared with friends where the question was posed, what’s the longest word which is one syllable? Now I say posed, because the conversation surrounding the question may have lasted the time it took me to swallow my mouthful. For me though, it was all I could think of the rest of the afternoon. Well. It’s going to be something with some serious consonant clusters, was my first thought.An hour or so later, I’d settled on the word straight. One syllable, with an admirable 8 letters. To compare, my name has the same amount of letters, and yet 4 syllables. How can that not amaze you?!

Does this make me an insufferable nerd? Perhaps. But as I do work in publishing, it may help to explain why certain errors in spelling and/or grammar serve to drive me crazy. I may steer clear of too much grammar critique, as I know that I overuse my comma, and I also have a funny way with full stops at times… (But at least I know I’m doing it!)

Top 3 annoying spelling errors

Breath vs Breathe
I know it isnt obvious. I know there arent any set rules to make it easier for you. But learn it, and use it. If I see one more character taking “a deep breathe” or one more fictitious mother in labour being told to “breath honey breath”, I may be guilty of inflicting some ‘shortness of breathe’ myself.

Lose vs Loose
Maybe it’s because these two sound so different when said out loud? I dont know, but this one really gets my goat. And I’ve seen it used wrongly in so many places.

Any version of fair/fare/fear bear/bare/beer being misused
I’m not even going to bother explaining this one. Yes it is a word. No, it is not the right word.

I know, that at best, you’re probably thinking “she’s right, but who cares?” And unless you are sending me your literary submission or business copy, maybe you have a point. So perhaps the following examples of those who definitely suffer from bad english will get you thinking. I’m not saying that Good Grammar Saves Lives.. But it certainly saves you from becoming a laughing stock.

1. I came across this sign a while ago on the world wide web, and I love it. It shows how without proper sentence structure, your words change meaning entirely. Needless to say, I wont be stopping in Tipton, Indiana for a bite to eat any time soon.

2.This one may be slightly off topic, but I am a firm believer that if you work in a field where you have to speak to any english person, a handful of words surrounding your field is not enough. That goes for the delivery man who turned up at our house knowing only the word ‘Sign’, as well as the security guard who we asked for directions outside his health club, who was blessed with a perfect english accent for his two english words. Health and Club.
You can imagine the fun that ensued when the cake below was returned to the shop by Suzanne’s irate colleagues. Fired much?

So, as someone in the field of writing, who throws aside submissions daily because of much lesser crimes than the ones above, what should you do in order to avoid these kind of mistakes?

I can only give the following two pieces of advice:
1. Read anything you’ve written twice on screen and once on paper. If it sounds or looks wrong, it probably is.
2. Read avidly and widely. The skills of spelling and phrasing difficult words or sentences tend to seep in through your fingers as you turn the pages.

Before you know it, you’ll be writing your own blog on mistakes you find everywhere that drive you crazy. When you do, send me a link. I live for that kind of thing.

Any other spelling/grammar mistakes that drive you mad?