Thursday, July 12, 2012

Editing and those tricky words

I am an editor. It gets tricky sometimes. I edit books by American and Australian and British authors. Sometimes it's merely a question of vernacular, but most often it is just the unwillingness to look things up. I gave a talk to a writing group once, along with my writing partner, who came up with the list below, about the use of words in the wrong context.

Accept (verb – I’ll take it) (See except)

All right (adj – agreeable;safe - two words preferred – one if you’re in a hurry)
All right (adv – satisfactorily – same as above)
[She was sick all right, but she’s all right now.]
All right (you all have the correct answer)

All ready (everyone is ready – two words)
Already (adv – prior to certain time – one word)

Affect (verb – influence) (See effect)

Allowed (verb – I’ll let you do it)
Aloud (adv - I can hear it)

Any more (I don't want any more food.)
Anymore (I don't want to do that anymore.)

Assume (verb – take for granted; take over debts, as in “She assumed when they married, he would assume her debts.”
See also, presume.

Ball (noun – round toy; fancy dance)
Bawl (verb – cried - as in, didn’t get invited to the fancy dance)

Baited (verb – stuck a worm on a hook; harassed the fish)
Bated (verb – restrained, as in “with bated breath”)

Bath (noun – where you wash yourself with water)
Bathe, bathed, bathing (verb-act of washing yourself)

Bare, baring (adj – nekkid; getting nekkid)
Bear, bearing (verb – carry; carrying) [Don’t confuse with “barring” – prep meaning “excepting”]

Breath (noun – air inhaled)
Breathe (verb – inhale air)

Capital (noun – money)
Capitol (noun – where politicians go to figure out how to divest you of the above)

Choose (verb, present tense – select)
Chose (verb – past tense of choose)

Desert (verb – abandon)
Desert (noun – wasteland)
Dessert (noun – lands on your waist)
[Please remember first example and last example are pronounced the same.]

Effect (verb – caused it to happen)
Effect (noun – result of causing it to happen)
The new guy effected a change, and the effect was positive.

Except (prep – with the exclusion of, as in, “Everyone got a prize except me.”)
Except (verb - excluded, as in “The prize-giver excepted me”)
Except (conj – on certain conditions, as in, “because I couldn’t get there except by boat.”)

Exercise (noun – repeated muscle action)
Exercise (verb – exert, as in “exercise influence”)
Exorcise (verb - expel something evil)

Fair (adj - equal; beautiful)
Fare (verb – to do okay with whatever)
Fare (noun – use fee; food)
Is it fair to assume you will fare well on that fare?

Farther (to a greater distance)
Further (to a greater degree)
I would driver farther to further my education.
[These two now used interchangeably.

Gait (noun – regular motion as in “horse’s gait”)
Gate (noun – device to keep above horse in the pen)

Guessed (verb – deduced)
Guest (noun – man who came to dinner)

Hail (noun – frozen rain)
Hail (verb – greet)
Hail (verb – strike repeatedly, as in “hail blows on his head)
Hale (adj – not infirm, as in “hale and hearty”)

Hear (verb – perceive sound; heed)
Here (adv – in this place)
Hear! Hear! If you mean to express agreement
Here! Here! If you want to catch the waiter’s attention

Hoard (verb – accumulate wealth)
Hoard (noun – accumulation of wealth)
Horde (noun – those who will come to take your hoard)

Into (prep - enter – one word)
In to (two words – nearly the same as above, but be careful)
The boy walked into his school room and turned his homework in to his teacher.

Its [NO apostrophe] (adj – possesses something)
It’s [apostrophe] (contraction of “it is”)
It’s common knowledge a dog will chase its tail.

Levee (noun – embankment to prevent flooding)
Levie (noun - what you pay for the embankment)

Lightening (verb – reducing weight, as in “lightening the donkey’s load”)
Lightening (adj – gradual brightening, as in “the lightening sky”)
Lightning (noun – bright flash/streak that comes before thunder)

Loose (verb – set free, as in “loose the captive”)
Loose (adj – not attached, as in “loose change”)
Lose (verb - don’t know where it went)

May be (could happen – two words)
Maybe (adv – perhaps – one word)
Maybe he is the one who may be chosen.

Past (noun – it’s over)
Passed (verb – went right by me)

Peace (noun – we all like each other)
Piece (noun – if your piece is bigger than mine, forget the above)

Pore (verb – examine carefully)
Pour (verb – cause to flow in a stream)

Presume (verb – to dare; to expect to assume)
Fine line between assume and presume—avoid both; use your thesaurus.

Principal (adj/noun – main part; main man)
Principle (noun – code of conduct)
The principal was a man whose principal principle was integrity.

Rain (noun/verb – precipitation, or act of precipitationing)
Rein (verb – control, as in “rein in your horse”)
Reign (verb – rule; hold office)
Reign (noun – sovereignty)

Shudder (verb/noun – shiver; act of shivering)
Shutter (noun/verb – window covering; act of putting up window covering)

Site (noun – location)
Sight (noun – something seen)
Cite (verb – to quote; to refer to)
Now that our site is in sight, please cite our reason for being here.

Tenet (noun – belief)
Tenant (noun – occupant)

Their/theirs [NO apostrophe] (adj – belongs to them)
There (adv – in that place)
They’re [apostrophe] (contraction of “they are”)

Were (verb – past tense of was)
We’re (contraction of “we are”)

Weather (noun/verb – atmospheric conditions; getting through same)
Whether (conj – implies alternatives, as in “decided whether to go or stay”)

Whose [NO apostrophe] (adj – Which person does this thing belong to?)
Who’s [apostrophe] (contraction of “who is” – Who’s going to admit whose hat this is?)

Your/yours [NO apostrophe] (adj – belongs to you)
You’re [apostrophe] (contraction of “you are”)

A word about: blond and blonde:

Webster says either is correct. Used to be that blond (adj) was preferred for male, blonde for female. Then some said blond w/o the “e” could be used for either gender, but blonde with the “e” was used as a noun. (The blonde walked into the room.) Now you can just do whatever you want with it.

About confidant and confidante:

Webster says either is correct, but confidante is preferred to describe female gender.

About fiancé and fiancée:

Webster says fiancé refers to man who’s engaged to be married; fiancée refers to woman who’s engaged to be married.

You don’t “try AND do” something; you “try TO do” something. Either you TRY to do it, or you DO it. Common usage, so OK for dialog. Not really correct for narrative.

Also, the use of me and I. Try this:

The water was too cold for Tim, John and me.
The water was too cold for Tim, John and I.

If you remove Tim and John, the sentence reads: The water was too cold for me.
It would not make sense to say: The water was too cold for I.

Myself: Really there are very few times to use this word.

It was just Tim, John and myself against the monster.
Should be: It was just Tim, John and me against the monster. (Or, better yet: It was just me, Tim and John against the monster.)

Please - use gaze instead of eyes:

His eyes roamed over her ample bosom.
His gaze roamed over her ample bosom.

I hope this is error-free. If not, I beg off since I am typing without the use of one hand. LOL And, as usual, I am late getting this blog ready to go.

JennaKay Francis


  1. Sorry that the formatting was messed up. Hopefully, it is fixed now.

  2. Great post, JennaKay. All of those little mistakes are so easy to overlook. At least for me. I think I'll save this as a reminder.


  3. You're like my Plain English Handbook personified! I know there are some items on that list I need to look up every now and then. My personal favorite was reading a book where a character was "pouring over a chart." I realize that was not a book you edited!