Wick Communications

Numb from nyms

In Writing on January 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

It is amazing how often professional writers use “principal” when they mean “principle” and “where” when they meant to pull “wear” from the word drawer. And lest you think I’m being holier-than-thou, I’m including myself in this list. Just the other day I wrote “purest” when I meant “purist.”

It’s downright embarrassing.

I think it generally happens because a part of our brain shuts down when things are humming along as we write. We’re thinking ahead. What I’m writing now is what I dreamt up 20 seconds ago and I’ve since moved on. Consequently, I’m not paying attention to detail. Additionally, we may sort of “say” our writing as it whizzes by on the screen and “catty” sounds the same as “caddy” coming out of my mouth.

The trick is rereading your stuff before you turn it into cold, hard type or submit it to the Internet where it kind of lives forever. I usually catch such errors on second reading and I know my editors do if they are given a chance…

I share this list from the smart “Daily Writing Tips” blog with some trepidation. For one thing, I think it’s confusing. I am not sure I’ve gotten my own head around the homo/hetero inclusions here. But I think it’s good to consider the traps.

It might help if you make a list of sound-alikes that sometimes trip you up at your office. When I see such slips at the Half Moon Bay Review, I point them out without poking fun. Hey, it happens. Even to “purists.”

Clay

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