Errors That Might Escape Spell Check

“Errors That Might Escape Spell Check” by Joan Y. Edwards

When revising your manuscript, one of your goals is: Correct all words that are not spelled properly.

Many word processing programs have a Spell Check feature. It will find and correct most words in a manuscript. However, Spell Check won’t catch the misuse of homonyms and other English words that often confuse writers. After all the words are spelled correctly. They are not used correctly.

What is a good writer like you to do?  Use Find for each of the words below and other words you might confuse. Then correct the spelling.

A. Homonyms that fool you.

  1. Incorrect: I turned it’s pages quickly.
    Correct: I turned its pages quickly.
  2. Incorrect: They took off they’re coats.
    Correct: They took off their coats.
  3. Incorrect: Lucy is the idle of my life.
    Correct: Lucy is the idol of my life.

B. Words that don’t sound alike, but are still used incorrectly.  Lie, lay; set, sit; who, which, that; further, farther; and proceed, precede.

  1. Incorrect: I cannot walk any further.
    Correct: I cannot walk any farther.
  2. Incorrect: Lie the book on my desk.
    Correct: Lay the book on my desk.
  3. Incorrect: Precede with your plans.
    Correct: Proceed with your plans.

Here’s a fun quiz entitled, “Are You Smarter Than a Spell-Checker?” I hope you enjoy it.

Edit your manuscript to a “polished – as good as I can get it for now” stage. Properly formatted. Punctuation and grammar checked. Pitch written, Plot checked. Characterization embedded. When you have finished polishing your manuscript, submit it to a publisher or agent.

Thank you for reading my blog and sharing with your friends.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright 2012 © Joan Y. Edwards

14 thoughts on “Errors That Might Escape Spell Check”

  1. Joan,
    Sometimes we rush and forget to use built-in devices like spell check. I love that WordPress allows you to send a draft post to another reader to check. This is especially helpful when including material about someone else in a post and wanting it to be accurate. Another great device is the spell-check prompt before publishing blogs. It’s hard to forget to do something when it pops right up at you. Your suggestion of checking frequently misused words and homonyms is also helpful. Maybe a prompt should come up for those too! Program it and get rich! Remember, you heard the suggestion from the lady with the silly hat.

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. You’re right. Sometimes we tend to forget built-in devices like spell check. I’m glad you like the fact that WordPress makes it easy to send a draft of your blog post to another person to read. A different set of eyes is definitely helpful.
      Do something special to celebrate you today.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Claire,
      Thanks for writing. You light up my life. Thanks for the compliment about being a “wizard of words.” My granddaughter, Kirstyn, would like to hear that. She loves Harry Potter, the wizard of all wizards.
      Celebrate you today!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  2. I love this poem on this very subject:
    (I don’t know who wrote it, but they should get a meddle!)

    The English Lesson (version one)
    We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
    But the plural of ox should be oxen not oxes.
    One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
    Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
    But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
    If the plural of man is always called men,
    Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

    If I spoke of my foot and showed you my feet,
    When I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

    If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
    Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?
    Then one may be that, and three would be those,
    Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.

    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    But though we say mother, we never say methren.
    So plurals in English, I think you’ll agree,
    Are indeed very tricky–singularly.
    The English Lesson (version two)
    Now if mouse in the plural should be, and is, mice,
    Then house in the plural, of course, should be hice,
    And grouse should be grice and spouse should be spice
    And by the same token should blouse become blice.

    And consider the goose with its plural of geese;
    Then a double caboose should be called a cabeese,
    And noose should be neese and moose should be meese
    And if mama’s papoose should be twins, it’s papeese.

    Then if one thing is that, while some more is called those,
    Then more than one hat, I assume, would be hose,
    And gnat would be gnose and pat would be pose,
    And likewise the plural of rat would be rose.

    1. Dear Widdershins, You bring a smile to my face. I liked this poem. It is definitely confusing to figure out which word to use in certain instances. Thanks for writing and sharing this poem by anonymous. I’d love to know who wrote it to give them credit. Wouldn’t you?

      Celebrate you today.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Joan, I’ve been collecting pairs of words that people have actually confused for about 5 years. I have a pair of columns for each letter of the alphabet. Words starting with s are the most likely to be confused with another word: so far I have 3813!

    Most of these are homophones like “salary” and “celery” as you say, and finger stumbles like “sash” and “smash,” but also there are meaning-related ones like “saved” and “freed,” and anagrams like “said” and “dais.” People often confuse different grammatical forms, for example “sarcasm” and “sarcastic.”

    All I need now is some way of making this useful. Any suggestions will be considered.
    Bob Rich

    1. Dear Dr. Bob,
      I excited and honored that you left a comment. Wow! 3,813 words that might confuse the writers! I suggest you publish your list as a book. It could stand on its own, as a print book with an ebook, too. I would love to have you be a guest on my blog and give perhaps ten or more of the errors you believe are most easily confused in your study. You can explain your editing services and a link to further information and pricing. You can also give me your published book titles, pictures of the book covers, and links to purchase. I checked out your website. I’d like to have you edit a young adult novel of mine. If you’d be willing to do this, please write a short comment here. I’ll email you at your email address listed here. I look forward to hearing from you.

      Celebrate you!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  4. Thanks for this, Joan. I appreciate your encouragement to better ourselves every day. I actually did a bit of writing on Friday. I am hoping to schedule it into my daughter’s home school day, so she grows up writing as well.
    Two sets of words have always frustrated me: capital/capitol (addressed on the link you provided) and lend/loan. I was glad to see farther and further on your list, as that can be an easy one to miss as well. Thanks again! 🙂

    1. Dear Lara, You’re welcome. It is my pleasure to encourage you. I am excited and happy that you actually did get to do a bit of writing on Friday. I’m glad the words I put in the blog were helpful to you and reminded you of others. I’ll add your words to my list. Words can be tricky.

      Spend time doing what you love.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  5. Your post was interesting and a good reminder. Over the years I’ve created my own list which has altered depending on the industry I worked in or articles I’m writing. Now if it could only stop the word processor from inserting its own words. (lol) Thanks for the reminder. Helen
    Helen Henderson
    Stories that take you to the stars, the Old West, or worlds of imagination. First stop for adventure and romance: Dragon Destiny and Windmaster Legacy, new fantasies from Burst Books (

    1. Dear Helen,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you found the blog post interesting. I’m especially happy that you thought it was a good reminder. It’s good that you were resourceful and created your own list to help you when you are writing. Do something to celebrate you and your love of writing!

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  6. Joan, I finished reading a chapter for a buddy of mine, and he’d typed “quite” instead of “quiet.” Spell-check, of course, missed this.

    When I edit, I won’t declare a particular section “clean” until I’ve read it through *twice* without making any corrections. Somehow I can overlook something once, but not twice in a row.

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