You may be uneducated – but you needn’t advertise the fact.
Of course, we all understand typos – though the sight of them uncorrected on a blogpost suggests serious amateurism.
But what’s worse is a spelling error that is more than a spelling error – that belies a failure to understand the difference between two very different words. If you think you ever watched a Western movie that involved sending in the calvary, you are not only mistaken, you are flaunting your ignorance.
Spell-check will not help you here; these are words that have two very different meanings. If all you do is rely on spellcheckers, then all you’ll get is correctly-spelled indications that scream out loud you don’t know what you’re talking about.
You may not have graduated college – but why advertise the fact? And if you did – why make it look like you weren’t paying attention?
Study this list of examples I’ve encountered over the years – my Top Ten Most Annoying Spelling Mistakes. (Non-native English speakers get five free passes).
- Cavalry vs. Calvary. A cavalry is a group of horse-mounted soldiers. Calvary is the name of the hill on which Jesus was crucified. The only cavalry at Calvary that day was Roman.
- Compliment vs. Complement. To compliment someone is to say something nice about them; a complement is something that goes well with something else. Being complimentary is a nice complement to a set of good manners.
- i.e. and e.g. i.e. is short for the Latin “id est,” or “that is.” e.g. is short for the Latin “exempli gratia,” or “for example.” “I’m from Missouri, i.e. show me, e.g. by citing a few cases.”
- Memento and Momento. A memento is a piece of memorabilia. A momento is Spanish or Italian for the English word “moment.” Un momento, por favor, I just want to grab a memento of my last day in Madrid.
- Chord and Cord. A chord is a harmonious set of intervals played at one moment; an idiomatic use is “struck a chord,” meaning ‘resonated with.’ A cord is a length of rope or string. To make it more musically confusing, we all have vocal ‘cords’ – not chords. That movie struck a chord with me, especially when the lead character yanked on the cord and proceeded to exercise his vocal cords at full strength.
- Effect vs. Affect. Effect, the noun, is a result – to effect, as a verb, is to bring something about. To affect, the verb, is to influence something – affect, the noun, is a demeanor. The effect of his affect was to change everything; he affected world politics, and thereby effected world change.
- Pare and Pear and Pair. To pare is to strip something down to its essentials. A pear is a fruit you eat. To pair is to match up with another. Would you please pare down that pear? I want to pair it with another pear that is already pared down considerably.
- It’s and Its. “It’s” is a contraction for “It is.” Its is the possessive form of “it.” It’s about time that cartoon rabbit got its own TV show.
- Sight vs. Site. Sight is the ability to see, one of the five senses. Site is a location. He chose the new factory site on paper alone, sight unseen.
- Reader’s Choice. What’s your nomination for number 10 on the list of most cringe-worthy spelling mistakes? I’ll print all good answers, and the best three get a free copy of one of my books.