Oops! Wrong Word

Spell check won’t always come to your rescue.2011 - Copy adj

by Andy Scheer

My friend knew what word he meant to type. But that line in his manuscript hadn’t quite come out correctly. Spell check doesn’t know the difference. Worse, it sounded nearly the same as the word he meant.

In the story when something creepy happened, I don’t think he wanted to say his character shuttered. Okay, maybe closing the blinds would block the view. But I changed the word to shuddered.

Likewise the manuscript I was checking yesterday. Two letters hadn’t gotten typed when he referred to a vintage aircraft, the Stratofreighter. Since the writer isn’t an aircraft expert — and he knew what he meant to type — he missed that his manuscript called it a Stratofighter.

A few paragraphs later, his spell check found nothing wrong when he typed that the plane was powered by four radical engines. While the 28-cylinder, 4,360-cubic-inch engines were the largest of their kind, they weren’t really radical. Instead, they were radial – with cylinders arranged like the spokes of a wheel.

The novel I just started reading from a big New York house describes a scene in which a ship is floundering. The author comes from Arizona, which is far from any ocean. Still, an editor or proofreader should have known he meant to type foundering.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]Having edited hundreds of writers, I know most have words that give us trouble.[/cryout-pullquote] Having edited hundreds of writers, I know most have words that give us trouble. While we know what we’re supposed to type, certain ones often come out wrong.

My pitfall is typing it’s instead of its. I know the difference, but when I’m typing fast, the wrong one usually gets typed. Knowing this weakness, I check for it in anything I write.

But I’m safest if I ask someone else to check a printout for me. It’s a good way to insure/assure/ensure (check your dictionary if you don’t know which is correct) you haven’t used the wrong word.

Picking the right one isn’t something you can take for granite.

About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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