Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. It has to do with strengthening metal and glass. Which kinda illustrates the point I wanted to make…
Well, you know what I haven’t talked about in a while? Spelling! Sure, it comes up a lot in random posts, but I wanted to focus on it for a moment.
However, I didn’t want to just shout at you not to depend on your spellchecker. I’ve done that plenty of times. For now, I wanted to talk specifically about misusing words–valid, correctly-spelled words and the problems this creates for my readers.
What’s that? How can it be a problem if I’m using wards that are spilled the write way? Wall, here’s the think. While spell-chick well ignore these worms—because all if then art correctly smelled—a person won’t. Their going two peck up on each won, even if there pretty close too what I indented, and they’ll stubble wile they reed.
And, sure, it’s easy to laugh off sentences or examples like the ones above because the rhythm of the sentence is still there. It only takes a moment for my mind to adjust and then I’m reading just as fast as I would normally. Understanding the actual meaning, too.
But it only takes a small slip of a finger to type closet when I meany closed, and that’s a pretty big break. It reads different and sounds different in my head. Like how you stumbled over meany at the start of this paragraph when it should’ve been meant. A ridiculously simple typo that spellcheckers will just wave past, but it derails the reading experience.
Here’s a couple of misused words I’ve collected over the past few months, in no particular order. These are words that were misused by journalists, politicians, even a copyeditor. Plus the words they meant to use. I think.
milk-toast vs. milquetoast
effect vs. affect
affects vs. effects
horde vs. hoard
hawk vs. hock
shotty vs. shoddy
peel vs. peal
peek vs. peak
peak vs. pique
heroin vs. heroine
cite vs. site
desert vs. dessert
I’ve seen people make a lot of excuses for this sort of thing in their manuscripts or articles. Readers will get it from context. The story is strong enough to cover for things like vocabulary. An editor will fix it when it gets published. Heck, one person shrugged it off and said “I’m just happy someone’s reading it.”
Reading for how long, though? Every time I have one of these, my reader is knocked out of enjoying my story and needs to figure out what the hell I’m trying to say, and that means I’ve killed the flow. It’ll create confusion as it guides the reader’s thoughts down the wrong paths and possibly shift the tone… creating more confusion. Look at heroin or heroine. If I plan on having my protagonist do one of these all weekend… well, I really need to be sure which one I want to use. Those are two verydifferent weekends, and each one’s going to make my reader view the protagonist in a certain way.
Y’see, Timmy, this is why I need to know more than my spellchecker. If I mess up, I’d guess 99% of the time it’s going to suggest a word. And that suggested word will always be spelled correctly.
But… it isn’t necessarily the word I meant to use. Just off my own experience, I’d guess at least one out of four times it’s the wrong word. Maybe as high as one out of three. If I’m just glazing over and automatically tapping change, I’m going to end up with a lot of mistakes.
And if I don’t know if the new word is a mistake or not… well…
I probably won’t need to worry about an editor fixing it when it gets published.
Next time, I’d like to share this little idea I had about how active my plot and story should be.
Until then… go rite.