Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spelling, Grammar, and Remembering Homophones

A pair of pears, get it?
This past week I've received my usual hundreds of emails per day from writers' groups, community blogs and writing programs. Nothing unusual about that really. What is alarming: the percent of "writerly" emails packed with spelling errors, grammatical errors and misused words or phrases - the kind that most of us should have mastered by middle school, especially those of us who claim to be writers.

        Are they the result of sloppy proofreading or something more profound? Proofreading is mysterious and elusive! Proofreading and then proofreading already proofread work tends to reveal an error here and there that we were certain we fixed. I'm no exception. Typos happen to everyone - the unavoidable function of typing quickly in our efforts to keep up with thoughts moving forward much too quickly for our fingers to keep pace.

        In all honesty, it's not as though I'm exempt from typographical errors or spelling mistakes but there are several tricks that, while old-fashioned and very low tech, remain tried and true.

        First: I reread all my work aloud, even writing I'm positive I've already proofread and already corrected.

        Second: I actually print out my work.  I've yet to understand it but transitioning from a screen to ink on paper often reveals something I missed before - sometimes simply an extra space or superfluous comma, but they do appear easier to spot.

        Last: Once printed, I walk away for a while - ideally, a day or two but not always. Coming back for a second, and even third, view can yield a few more surprises.

        Even with all those precautions, I've had the horrifying experience of reading an essay I've published or something I've posted online only to discover a glaring mistake gone public! For some mysterious reason, it totally evaded detection.

        The event that inspired my current rant: four emails I received this morning from writers' blogs, writing journals and community boards for writers. Of those four, three had blatant errors. The particular errors that seem incredible are grammatical or word usage ones made by those who consider themselves to be professional writers.

Number I - from a community blog for food writers as follows:
        "If your a food blogger or writer..."
My guess is that the intended word is "you're," the contracted form of "you are."
Number II - an email from an organization that supports writers stating:
        "You should of received your first newsletter ..."
The correct statement, "you should have..." should have been mastered by third or fourth grade.
Number III -  a set of guidelines for posting from an online community for women writers I joined recently. Etiquette rules are a primary concern as the email noted:
        "We have a no-all-caps policy. We want to remain a polite, positive group and if a few people are aloud to shout, it spoils it for us all!"

And that noted, shouting aloud may work in a sentence but wouldn't it make more sense for writers to request that participants not be allowed to shout? Hopefully, this was just an example of "clumping theory" that seems more common in probability studies.


  1. Yes! I can't believe the volume of spelling and grammatical errors on LinkedIn! Improper use of "your" bugs me. Thanks for the invite to stop by. I'll be back!


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