Showing posts with label proofreading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label proofreading. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2013

Commonly Misspelled Words in Fiction

by Jill Williamson

Ever been reading a book and found an error? I have. Even in my own books. I’ve also heard people rant in person and online, “How could authors not edit their books?”

As a published author, I’d like to point out that such a statement is an unfair assumption.

A reader should not blame the author for all errors in a book. There’s a whole team that is involved in making a book, and errors can happen anywhere in the publishing process. There have been times when I found errors in my book that I knew happened when I asked them to fix something during the final proofing stage and a typo happened there.

And there have also been typos that were my fault and everyone missed.

Did you know that if you find errors in a book, you can email them to the publisher? Publishers have a file for such notes, and if a book goes into a second printing, the publisher can correct the errors. So you never know, your email just might get the book fixed the next time around.

Some authors hate to get emails about errors. They feel like it’s very rude. I don’t mind. Because I know that these things happen, and I want to get them fixed. But if you email and author and they never write back or respond with some snark in their tone, have mercy. You’ll never know the journey they traveled for that book; it could have been a stressful one that they don’t care to relive.

All that to say, for authors, it’s your name on the front of that book, and you need to do the best job you can perfecting your manuscript. So I want to talk about misspelled words today.

Biggest rule?
Spell check. With instant spell check, I forget to do an overall one sometimes. Bad move. When you are done with the book, and right before you turn it in, SPELL CHECK! Don’t forget.

Second biggest rule?
Do not rely on spell check alone. You have to read the thing again and again. Enlist friends to read it. This should be done at the very end. Don’t ask people to read for spelling and grammar before you do a rewrite. Don’t abuse these precious volunteers. And once you find someone who catches things better than anyone, hang on to them, even if you have to pay them. He is a priceless contact.

The following is a list of words that are commonly misspelled, most of which spell check will not catch for you. Check these out:

Jill’s Top Three Pet Peeve Misspellings
A lot- I’ve seen writers spell this as “a lot”, but it is two words: a lot. There is no exception.

All right- Many people spell this as one word: alright. And while most dictionaries list it as a legitimate word, most publishers don’t. “Alright” is considered a slang spelling. I recommend using the two word spelling, unless you’re in dialogue.

Lightning- Seems simple enough, but I’ve seen it spelled with an “e” many times. But the word “lightening” means two things: 1. To become lighter in weight or brightness, or, 2. The decent of the uterus into the pelvic cavity, just before a woman gives birth. Try not to make this spelling error.

Usage errors
Most of us know the differences between these words, but we’re typing so fast, and we neglect to do a good proofing and mistakes are made. Watch for these as you proofread. They can be sneaky.


Publisher’s preference
Every publisher has their own style guidelines. When I signed my contract with Zondervan/HarperCollins, they sent me a manual and a style guide to use for reference. Here are some words that publishers will make the final call on. And for you that means, pick one way and stick with it for these words and you’ll be fine. If the publisher wants to change it later, they will.

Backward(s) and other words that end in “ward(s).” For example: toward, forward, afterward. I’ve heard that the European spelling uses an “s” and the US spelling does not. If you are trying to get published in the US, drop the “s” from all of these “ward” words.

OK vs. okay vs. ok- Most publishers prefer the spelling “okay,” so I suggest you stick with that one. But if you get a contract and your editor changes it, it’s no big deal.

Grey vs. gray- This is another US/European difference. “Gray” is the popular US spelling, so if you’re writing for the US, use “gray.” Jeff Gerke likes “grey,” and he and my Zondervan editor had a discussion in my edits about it. Jeff said that he knows “grey” is European, but he prefers it for Marcher Lord Press, which Jacque said Zondervan uses “gray.”

Blonde vs. blond- There’s a lot of changes here. Blond(e) used to be a masculine/feminine word.  Ex: The blond guy, the blonde woman. That’s changed. Now, “blond” is the word for the color of hair, no matter the sex of the character. And “blonde” is only used as a noun for a blond woman. Tricky, I know. Despite this, my Zondervan editor said that they still abide by the masculine/feminine rules in their style book, and she changed my spellings. So there you go. Clear as chocolate milk.

T-shirt- I’ve seen this word spelled all kinds of ways, but the correct spelling is with a capital T and a hyphen.

Watch out for these other tricky words
accept/ except
all ready/already
all together/altogether
any more/anymore
a while/awhile

In dialogue
If you’re doing it to create character, you may ignore spelling and grammar rules within dialogue. But do it carefully and specifically to each character. I’m going to blog about this in a few weeks and give specific examples. Dialogue is one of the best places to characterize.

Yes, this is a tedious process, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Sure, mistakes happen, but you’ll start to instinctively know some of those tricky spellings. You’ll also learn which misspellings you tend to make over and over, and you’ll be able to make a list of them and check them every time.

Which words get you every time?