Do you check spell check? I do. While spell check is an efficient way to give your writing a first scrub, it will never replace proofreading. That’s because there are mistakes that spell check will never catch. Often, they involve homophones – two words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings. (Homophone derives from the Greek homos “same” + phone “sound.”) Writers choose words that sound right and are spelled right, but are simply not the correct word.
Here are six spell check-proof mistakes to watch out for:
Loose instead of lose. Is it me or is this one showing up everywhere, from text messages to editorial content in national newspapers? Lose the extra “o”!
Your instead of you’re. Saw this common miscue in a blog by a great ad writer, which only shows how easy it is for any of us to trip up.
Comprised of instead of comprises. I can still hear my fourth grade teacher, Miss McAndrew: The whole comprises the parts; the Union comprises the states. However, I’m finding this to be a losing (not loosing) battle. Clients often insist on “comprised of” and I end up re-writing to avoid the issue.
Insure instead of ensure. While some guidelines advise that these words are interchangeable, I use “insure” strictly when referring to actual insurance (“I insure my car”) and “ensure” to convey the idea of helping to make something happen (“Spell check does not ensure an error-free copy draft”).
Affect instead of effect. As verbs, these words have distinct meanings: affect means to influence (The weather affected the outcome of the game) or to feign (He affected an air of confidence despite the fact that the ripcord wasn’t working) while effect means to bring about (The politicians promised to effect change).
It’s instead of its. One is a contraction (It’s raining) and one is a possessive (The band played its biggest hit for the encore). Easy way to avoid this common mistake: read the sentence using it is instead of either it’s or its and you’ll know immediately if your usage is correct.
What misspellings do you see often? Share them in the comments below.