If you’ve made it past elementary school, you know spelling counts. Even in this day and age, unless the only things you want to write are txt msgs. If you want to submit a professional story or article, you need to know how to spell or at least know how to correct your spelling mistakes.
The first rule of proper spelling is: don’t count on your spell checker. The spell checker will pick up “colection” vs. the proper “collection” but it won’t pick up wail (long, loud cries) vs. whale (an aquatic mammal). It’s up to you to discover these mistakes, and find out which one is the one you want. An editor doesn’t want two sea a wail in the see.
Here’s a short list of common mistakes:
Words That Look or Sound the Same
bear (a forest creature or to carry) vs. bare (naked; without covering)
The bear rubbed a bare spot on the tree.
come on (come upon or proceed) vs. come-on (flirting)
You can come on over to my house, but don’t give my husband the come-on.
fare (a fee) vs. fair (gathering or exhibition; attractive; clean; light complexion; good weather; clear; just; promising; pleasant or favourable; moderate amount or condition)
Eight dollars was the fare to get into the summer fair.
wear (to have on) vs. ware (goods)
What shall I wear to sell my wares?
where (what place) vs. were (past tense of was)
Where were you when John Lennon died?
then (some time ago) vs. than (a comparison)
Back then, I preferred watching horror rather than fantasy.
Loose (not tight) vs. lose (to misplace something)
If your pants are too loose, you might lose them.
Entitled (to give right to) vs. titled (the name of something)
I was entitled to payment for my story titled “The Test”.
Lightning (flashes of light that come with thunder) vs. lightening (to become brighter)
The lightning was lightening up the room every time it flashed. [Okay, that's a bad one. It should read: The lightning was lighting up the room. But you understand the difference.]
Except (everything but) vs. accept (take/receive willingly)
They were all ready to accept the story, except the old, grumpy editor.
Two vs. One
A lot (two words meaning much of something) vs. allot (to distribute)
There are a lot of canned goods to allot.
*alright (one word) vs. all right (two words) – the single word version is becoming more popular but for now it’s still proper to use all right.
already (sooner, previously) vs. all ready (everyone is prepared)
The kids were all ready when I arrived to pick them up. They’d already packed their stuff.
everyone (all the people) vs. every one (each individual one of those people)
Everyone can sleep in the tent. Every one of us will fit.
woulda, coulda, shoulda – We shorten words up so much, it’s sometimes hard to remember which words they actually stand for. In this case, would/could/should of is wrong.
I would have used a better example if I could have thought of one and I really should have tried harder.
Your (possessive) vs. you’re (you are) – If you can replace one word with two then you’re is the word you are looking for. If not, your is your word.
It’s (it is) vs. its (possesive – See Your vs. You’re)
I Before E?
believe – While there’s always a “lie” in believe, there are many exceptions. Use I before E except after C and in words that have the ‘a’ sound but only if the words have the long ‘e’ sound. Huh? (Who makes these things up anyway?)
I before E except after C works when words have the long ‘e’ sound:
yield, reprieve, relief, believe, niece, chief, frieze, field, ceiling, perceive, conceit, receive, deceive
E before I works when words have the ‘a’ sound:
vein, sleigh, freight, eight, neighbor, weigh
But what about these words?
their, weird, height, foreign, counterfeit, forfeit, seize, leisure and either, neither, sieve, sufficient science, conscience
Maybe the rule should be E before I except in some words which you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
So, before you submit your story or article, edit it with your own eyes. This method is not fool-proof — an article of mine was accepted and when it came out in print form my dad informed me that I’d used “then” instead of “than” (or maybe it was the other way around) — but it’s the best way to catch most of your typos. An editor might accept one or two spelling mistakes but if the entire story is riddled with them you can count on a rejection.
Look for little tricks to help you remembeer how words are spelled:
- friend – there’s always an end in friend.
- believe – there’s always a lie in believe.
- see (vs. sea) – two e’s in see for the two eyes you see with.
- hear (vs. here) – the ear you hear with is in hear but not here.
- here (vs. hear) – take the T off there and you’re here, not there.