As an editor, nothing stops me in my reading tracks more than the wrong word in a sentence. Sometimes an author wants to throw in a bit of flair by using a foreign language or by adding something they’ve heard before. My advice is to know that the word(s) you use are correct. If in doubt, look it up.
These are a few that I’ve seen recently, thankfully not in a published book:
Bone ape tit
Yes, I nearly choked on my coffee! The correct spelling is: bon appétit. It is a French exclamation used as a salutation to a person about to eat.
Complete and udder betrayed-shock
I believe she meant utter betrayed-shock. An udder is part of a cow.
My daughter was reading and found this one. The correct word is valedictorian. But I can see where someone who didn’t know could come up with this.
Pretty sure they meant shoddy.
We’ve all seen the wrong word used, and sometimes it’s in a published piece. We type a word that sounds the same and it’s only later, during editing, that we go: Gosh! That was the wrong word! Self-editing is helpful, but having an editor can help catch those wrong words.
Here’s my list of pet peeves in the wrong word department:
This term is spelled, well, whoa…not “woah.” That’s not even a word! It may be an acronym for something, but it isn’t a word.
e.g. Whoa! Hold it right there!
This term is often misspelled “ya’ll.” What a difference an apostrophe can make. Y’all is a contraction made up of you + all. So make sure that you spell it thus: y’all.
e.g. Where have y’all been?
Wahla…not a word! It’s actually voilà.
e.g. I reach into this hat and, voilà, I pull a rabbit out!
Shutter and shudder
A shutter is placed on the outside of a window. So if you wrote “I shuttered as his hand caressed my cheek,” did you mean to put a wooden/plastic fence over yourself? A shudder is what creeps down your spine, either in joy or fear.
e.g. Those shutters protect the windows during storms.
e.g. She shuddered when he smiled at her.
Loose and lose
Loose is an adjective (and sometimes a verb) that indicates something is not tight, able to freely move, or is unbound–physically or figuratively. Lose is a verb that indicates destruction, deprivation, or lack.
e.g. He was wearing a loose fitting shirt.
e.g. If I go in there, I will lose my mind.
Breath and breathe
Remember breath is a noun and breathe is a verb.
e.g. I can take one breath, but I need to breathe.
Peak, peek, peaked, and piqued
A peek is when you look at something; a peak is the summit or point of something; peaked is an adjective that means sickly (pronounced ˈpēkə̇d) or an adjective that means pointed (pronounced ˈpēkt); pique is an irritated feeling or provocation.
e.g. She peeked into the package.
e.g. We could see the peaks of the mountains in the distance.
e.g. He appeared peaked after he heard the news of our engagement.
e.g. The house has a peaked roof.
e.g. She said those things in a fit of pique; don’t hold it against her.
e.g. The topic of his speech piqued her interest.
Then and than
Then shows a sequence of events. Than is used for comparisons.
e.g. We will then go up on the roof.
e.g. I prefer this rather than that.
Free rein does not equal free reign. Its origin is an equestrian term to give a horse free movement by ‘freeing the reins’.
e.g. He gave her free rein over his finances.
Lead and led
When used as a verb, lead is in the present tense. When used as a noun it’s a metal. Led is the past tense of lead.
e.g. I’ll lead you today.
e.g. Lead paint is poisonous and should be removed from your home by a professional.
e.g. I led you yesterday.
Barely and barley
Barely is an adverb that shows a narrow margin. Barley is a type of grain.
e.g. I barely made it to work on time.
e.g. There is barley in this soup, isn’t there?
Bear and bare
To bare means to expose. To bear means to endure.
e.g. The shirt bared her shoulders.
e.g. This new job is more than I can bear.
Definitely and defiantly
Definitely shows a condition of absoluteness. Defiantly shows rebellion.
e.g. I will definitely be there.
e.g. She stared at him defiantly.
I’m sure that you have your own list. Feel free to leave some of your favorite examples in the comments here. We can learn from other’s mistakes!
Write Divas, through their editing program, can help ensure that you are using the right words in your writing.