I saw a query letter this week with a “pear of scissors”in it. The author, who lives in a land that was once part of the British Empire, speaks English as a second language. I didn’t have to read more than the query, to know the manuscript, if accepted, would be riddled with similar problems and so it was a no-go right from the start.
Now I know you all know the difference between a pear and a pair of scissors, but obviously someone had a problem. In fact EASL people by no means have a corner of this market and I have often confused compliment and complement or farther and further myself, among others. These are two that I always search and double-check in a completed manuscript, knowing my propensity for getting them wrong.
Homonyms, words that sound alike, but that are spelled differently and that have different meanings, can certainly trip any of us up. Worse, spell check will not find them for you, because they spell real words and are not “mistakes” in spelling.
Below is a list of the most often confused homonyms and other words – mistakes that undermine an author’s credibility. Are any of your own particular bugbears on the list?Aisle/isle Allude/elude Alright/all right – alright is a misspelling Alter (n)/altar (v) Ascent (n)/assent (v) Awhile – never use a while Bail/bale Bare/bear Bazaar (n)/bizarre (adj) Blonde (n)/blond (adj) Brake/break Canvas/canvass Cite/sight/site Coarse (adj)/course (n) Complementary/complimentary Criteria/criterion – criteria is plural of criterion Desert/dessert Discreet (tactful)/discrete (separate) Emigrate (leave)/immigrate (enter) Enter/inter Exit/exist Farther (distance)/further Formally (manner)/formerly (previous) Fried/friend Guess/guest Hear/here Heel/heal Herd/heard Imminent (about to happen)/eminent (distinguished) Mantel/mantle Massage/message Naïve (adj)/naivete (n) New/knew Pane/pain Peek/peak Peel/peal Present/presence Quite/quiet Roll/role Rouge/rogue Salvage/savage Strait/straight Tale/tail There/their/there’re Thorn/throne To/too/two Trial/trail Vain/vane/vein Woman/women Won’t/want Your/you’re
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Arline Chase became a publisher at Write Words, Inc. on Jan. 1, 2000. She is an award-winning author, journalist, teacher, and mentor to authors all over the world. Arline is a long-time member of the International Women’s Writing Guild and has led workshops at their conferences as well as workshops and panels at Malice Domestic and other writers conferences. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of American and the Eastern Shore Writers’ Association. You can learn more about Arline on her website.
A version of this post appeared on her blog at Write Words/Arline Chase on December 8, 2010.[subscribe2]