Whenever I see, hear, say the word “words” immediately my brain starts playing that song by the BeeGees, and I don’t even like the BeeGees…Anyway moving on…

Homophones seem to be the most oft committed grammar error. I’ve been writing about this for years, wondering why people have problems with this. I never found an answer. Homophone errors are the ONE error that jumps out to me – I can be fuzzy on other grammatical matters but not this one.

In this morning print edition of The Washington Post there were two side-by-side articles in the Business Section regarding Eli Lilly dropping the price on insulin – from one article we have –

‘Vile’ instead of vial. Yet in the on-line version of the same article that error has been corrected. Raising two questions in my mind – why the homophone error and which came first – print edition or on-line edition. As a third question – who caught the error/who made the error.

Also – in an article reprinted from the Baltimore Sun, and not in the on-line edition of the Post, there is this awkward sentence “…which he has briefly remarked upon only briefly since…” What? Does that make you twitch as much as it does me?

Lest you say “Grace – get a life!” I must tell you my inner editor has been alive and well for as long as I can remember. For instance – back in the early 1990’s I read the book “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” – twice – all 416 pages. The second time was to make notes of all the errors, which I then typed up and sent to the publisher. That was fairly recent I admit.

I can’t at the moment remember a specific incident from my childhood but I can tell you one funny story from my early 20’s when I worked at the Encyclopedia Americana.

For some reason I can’t recall I had the page proofs for a section that included an article on the novel “Don Quixote”.  Also you should know that page proofs are pulled from the permanent print plates. Reading the article I noted an error – “flying pan” instead of “frying pan”. I laughed and brought it to the attention of the production manager. He was not happy. The editor was not happy. The copy editors were not happy. It could not stand, had to be corrected, therefore the whole plate had to be re-done – an expensive proposition. I was jokingly (?) told to never read page proofs again.

And yet – so many errors in what I write – words left out – tho I will swear that’s my computer messing with me. And my almost nonexistent typing skills. But that’s another story.

13 thoughts on “Words…

  1. My inner editor is alive and well and drives me to drink more often than not. Proof reading must be a dead art because spelling and grammatical errors rule the world these days.
    Then again, maybe I’m wrong and that vial really was vile.

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    1. Spell check has turned us all into sloppy writers and thinkers. (On a serious note – the article was about Eli Lilly dropping the price of insulin – so not vile at all.)

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  2. My wife worked at a grocery store and one day she and the manager walked past a banner he had just put up. It said “Enviromentally safe dry-cleaning.” My wife tole me she pointed the spelling error out to the manager, who responded by saying, “We’ll leave it up so people can feel good about how smart they are.”
    My wife replied, “I’m not that proud about something I learned in the fifth grade.”
    I make lots of mistakes, but then I’m not a professional copy writer. But I try to be philosophical. There’s the American usage, the British usage, and the Internet usage. Amirite??

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  3. I can spot mistakes a whole lot easier if someone else makes them. My own writing however, I frequently make mistakes that I never catch.

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    1. I think that is true of all of us – I know that I leave words out – I don’t type as fast as I think! And then I am the world’s most crap typist…


  4. I use talk to text a lot when using my phone to send messages. It is faster than I can type using the small keyboard and my big fingers. Talk to text will miss spell similar words and place punctuation in places when not necessary. It also picks up the TV or radio in the background and adds words to my text message. If I hit send before reviewing my text, some strange messages can be sent. Lol. When I worked for the state, one of the managers would always review all of our write-ups. She was truly a grammar Nazi. Lol. But I found that her grammar contradicted Google grammar spell check frequently. It seems that her ideas of correct grammar and punctuation differed from Google. She was constantly on my back about this and I told her every time that all my write-ups were spell, checked and grammar checked by the Google app. Which was a standard tool to be used.

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    1. I use dictation when I have to send a long text (daughter doesn’t like email.) I don’t get many weird interpretations but the punctuation is always way off. If I am unsure of punctuation or grammar I will check it via grammar sites. I don’t think Google is a reliable source of grammar help or hints – I don’t use Google for anything anymore I use Duck,Duck,Go but that’s another discussion altogether. In creative writing, certainly poetry, punctuation is personal not necessarily grammatical.

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  5. The most significant error is that no one can perform proofreading checks anymore. I remember a few years ago trying to study for a proofreading course, and it was confounding and baffling, and l kept falling asleep because of the little symbols.

    We all make errors, not all of us deliberately make intentional ones, but still, it happens.

    [Side note Grace, would you be ready for your questions in the next week?]

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    1. We learned basic proofreading skills, ie: the symbols and their meanings, in grammar school. For a short time I was a legal proofreader – And as Ann said it is always easier to catch someone else’s error than our own. Punctuation always trips me up – colon vs. semi-colon? Some people think the semi-colon should be abandoned altogether.

      Side Note: Yup, ready for my questions Mr. Matier

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      1. My grammar has always been a problem for me, l know what things should look like but my mind can’t compute it – so l use Grammarly with 95% of my written work.

        I am always slipping up with grammar.

        It was blamed on many things when l was at school, but the most probable is probably dysgraphia.

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