Tag Archives: spelling

‘Peak’, ‘Peek’ or ‘Pique’ one’s interest?

taking-a-peakI think peek can be taken out of the confusion equation most easily. It simply means ‘a secret look’, and one cannot ‘secret look one’s interest’ and claim grammatical wherewithal. However, errors arise between peak and pique.

Peak is often used wrongly in this expression, presumably because it sounds like it’s bringing one’s interest to a peak, ‘a highest or maximum point’.

The correct phrase is ‘to pique one’s interest’.

Pique, in this context, means ‘to provoke’.

If you ever confuse peek and peak, just remember that peek is like peer, or see the ‘ee’s like a pair of eyes.

I hope this post provoked you interest. Likes, shares, comments and such will be met with eternal gratitude.

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‘Pore’ or ‘Pour’?

poringPeople often confuse the two verbs. You pour a cocktail and then pore over a book.

Pore, in this sense, can only be used in conjunction with ‘over’ or ‘through’ and means to be absorbed in the reading or study of.

Pour means to flow or cause to flow in a steady stream; to prepare and serve (a drink).

My trick for remembering it is to think of the in pour as like a tiny bucket that things could be poured into. So this is the spelling to use when thinking of flowing.

“She filled a bowl with cereal. She poured over the milk.” This would mean that she put milk on her Corn Flakes.

“She filled a bowl with cereal. She pored over the milk.” This means that she stopped after getting her Corn Flakes to examine the milk closely.

pouring

Similarly, if one were to write, “She poured over her book” we would all wonder what she’d poured over it and why.

Pore is also a noun, meaning the tiny holes in faces, but let’s not worry about that now.

Was that of any use to you at all? Likes, shares and comments all wildly appreciated.

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‘Further’ or ‘Farther’?

These are often used interchangeably and are commonly accepted to be synonyms. Both words share the sense of going beyond. However, there is still a proper, formal way to use them.

Farther is used for a physical distance. Think far away. If you could fit the words a greater physical distance in place of it, it is correct to use farther.

“Is there farther to go before we turn?”

“Is there a greater physical distance to go before we turn?”

green-light

F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to use them.

Further can be used for less concrete notions and all that metaphysical jazz:

“Without further ado…”

Further to your letter…”

“We’ve made further progress on the research.”

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‘Must Of’ or ‘Must’ve’?

In general, I’m not the sort of person who corrects people unbidden, but every time I see a message with must of in it my pedant urges twitch, and I have to stop myself typing a Google-style “Did you mean must’ve?”

DowntonMust of is an incorrect way of saying must’ve or must have. The contraction is pronounced like must of, presumably causing the confusion.

It is extremely rare that must of will make sense together in a sentence e.g. ‘They must of course consider what is proper’. Commas would sort that right out, though.

They must’ve been scandalized when she married the chauffeur.

You must’ve mistaken a footman for a valet. How embarrassing.

I think you must’ve watched too much Downton.

Have you seen this happening? Comments and shares much appreciated!

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Nine Frightfully Impressive Words for Your Halloween Vocabulary

I read the dictionary so you don’t have to. The selection below could, in my opinion, be well employed in horror stories and casual Halloween party conversation:
“You look positively sepulchral.”
“Why, thank you!”somebody

Eldritch: Weird, ghostly, unnatural, frightful, hideous. (Of obscure origin. Potentially something to do with elves.)

Gloaming: An Old English word for twilight. (Useful now the latter has become synonymous with sparkly vampires.)

Imbrue: To stain, especially with blood.

Lambent: Of a flame (fire, light): Playing lightly upon or gliding over a surface without burning it, like a ‘tongue of fire’.

Lycanthropy: The transformation into werewolf form.

Mizzle: 1. Misty rain (modern). 2. A sudden or surreptitious departure or disappearance (rare/archaic).

Rutilant: To shine with a reddish glow.

Sepulchral: 1. Pertaining to the tomb or interment. 2. gloomy; dismal. (From the Latin Sepultra: to bury.)

Susurration: Malicious whispering.

Definitions were checked in the OED. Those are just a few words I’ve come across lately and enjoyed. Please add your favourites – leave a comment!

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‘Stationary’ or ‘Stationery’?

stationaryBack to school time: a time when proprietors try to cash in on young ones’ collective desire for decorative protractors, pens and paraphernalia. It is also a time when signage misspelling abounds. The A-board to the right was in my shopping precinct. Homophones are tricky. Here’s the correct usage: 

Stationary: adjective; not moving.

Stationery: noun; writing materials. 

The way that I was taught to remember this is to think of the -er in paper. “I bought pap-er from a station-er.”

stationeryTheir etymology is linked. They both originate in the Latin stationarius, which comes from stare which means ‘to stand’. You are stationary when you are standing in one place. Also, stationer (a person who sells stationery) was a tradesperson who had set up at a fixed location and was therefore standing in the same spot, stationary

One more time: 

“The paper is stationery.”

“The car is stationary.”

I hope that was helpful. How do you remember it? Comments welcome!

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‘Advice’ or ‘Advise’?

IMAG0343

Look at the image. There’s something wrong with it beyond the poor camera-phone picture quality and the excessive air-brushing. It’s there in the bottom right corner. It’s easily done. The verb and the noun have been confused.

Advice is what they meant. It is the noun meaning guidance or recommendations for future action. In this case, guidance on hair-based life choices. Think ‘my advice on ice’ to remember spelling and pronunciation.

Advise is the verb, meaning to recommend or inform.  This is pronounced more like ‘-ize’.

For example, my conversation with them will go something like this:

‘If I advise you on proper spelling, will you give me free hair advice?’

‘No.’

‘OK, thanks, bye!’

Any questions or comments? Put them below please!

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Morphemes

Morphemes, not be be confused with Morph memes.

Morphemes, not be be confused with Morph memes.

Morphemes are the smallest unit of language that can convey meaning; they cannot be broken down any further into meaningful units.

For example, the word unshockable is made up of three morphemes
un-,  shock, and -able.

Shock is a free morpheme because it can be used alone as a complete unit – it is free of other morphemes.

Un- and -able are bound morphemes because they modify a free morpheme. Even though they are not words in their own right, they do have meaning: un- means ‘not’ and -able means ‘able to be’.

Understanding morphemes has been shown to improve spelling – do you remember teachers saying, ‘break it down into chunks’? For example, the suffix
-ian usually refers to a person, so we known that magician is spelt magic
-ian
, rather than magic -ion.

funny-magician-Abra-Kadabra
As a writer you can broaden your vocabulary, or even invent words more cogently, by breaking them down and combining the appropriate morphemes. 
Sometimes, flow can be improved by looking at words that have multiple morphemes and replacing them with a single morpheme. One example would be replacing uncomplicated (three morphemes) with simple (one morpheme). 

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Homonyms

A homonym is a word that is identical to another word either in sound or spelling, but differs from it in meaning. It comes from the Greek homos meaning ‘same’. Homonyms can be divided into two sub-types: homophones (from the Greek ‘same’ and phone, ‘sound’) and homograph (‘same’ and graphe,‘writing’).

These are homonyms that are also homographs; they are spelt the same but pronounced differently:

Capsule - Homonym

Capsule – Homonym

  • ‘The bandage was wound around the wound.’
  • ‘The farm was used to produce produce.’

These homonyms are also homophones; they are spelt differently but pronounced the same:

  • ‘I will die if you dye that pink.’
  • ‘Can you see that ewe by the yew?’
  • ‘That boat shop has got a sail sale on.’

Homophones can often be the root cause of common spelling errors: your and you’re, for example. They are also the basis of many glorious puns and jokes. Here are a few courtesy of my favourite joke book (Tim Vine, you are a genius!):

  • The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her and said, ‘did you get my drift?’
  • My dog always misinterprets things I say. I say ‘heel’ and he goes down the hospital and does what he can.
  • So I went to the cinema and saw a very sad film. The guy behind me started wailing. I got hit in the back of the head with a harpoon.
  • She said ‘I’m going to dig a hole in the ground and fill it with water.’ I thought, she means well.

Test your understanding by telling me which of the above jokes are based on homophones and which are homographs. Answers in the comments please!

Homophones

Tell me your favourite homonym-based joke in the comments!

If you’ve found this useful – please do like and share!

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‘It’s’ or ‘Its’?

These two are commonly confused. Here are the rules:

‘It’s’ is short for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

Darth

‘It’s been a long time coming.’

‘It’s not you, it’s me.’

‘It’s a massive hot air balloon shaped like Darth Vader’s head.’

‘It’s rather intimidating.’

‘Its’ is used as the possessive: when something belongs to the ‘it’ in question.

s-BAD-IRON-MAN-COSTUME-large‘The jury has reached its decision: the guy in all the sellotape is not the real Iron Man.’ 

‘The dog chased its tail.’

‘Its colour was unexpected.’

‘The group changed its name.’

 

Could you put ‘it is’ in the sentence instead? Then use ‘it’s’. Could you put ‘him’/’her’ in the sentence? Use ‘Its’.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a good way of remembering this, any questions or good examples!

 

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