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Spelling Sets You Apart As a Writer

Spelling Sets You Apart As a Writer

Computer spell check software is great, but it sometimes doesn’t alert you to a misspelled word. And, you might be spelling a word correctly, but it isn’t the word that you should be using in the context of the sentence.


For example, what if you wrote this sentence with a typo in it:


He tackled the breast and killed it.


Well obviously, you didn’t mean to put that R in there – it should have said:


He tackled the beast and killed it.


But spell check wouldn’t catch it because they’re both words and both spelled properly. But one isn’t correct and it could cause you a lot of embarrassment. So, you can’t rely on spell check to save you – you have to learn how to spell on your own.


Here are a few of the most commonly misspelled words:


·         You, Your or You’re? - These words are spelled correctly, but are used differently in sentences. Many people confuse the words your and you’re and don’t understand which to use.


To keep it simple, think before you write and, in your mind, try replacing ‘you’re’ with ‘you are.’ If you can do that, you’ve got it right.




I’d love to have your recipe for lasagna.


Clearly, you can’t replace ‘your’ with ‘you are’ in this sentence.


Let me know when you’re leaving on the cruise.


‘You’re’ is definitely interchangeable with ‘you are’ in this sentence.


If the word ‘you’ is misspelled in a sentence, it’s usually a typo that the spell check didn’t catch, like ‘yo’ - so beware of that when typing the word and check to make sure it’s spelled properly.


·         Loose or Lose? – The English language is sometimes tricky, and these two words are good examples. Loose can be used in a sentence as an adjective, while lose is used as a verb.




The picture fell off the wall because of a loose nail.


‘Loose’ is used as an adjective to describe the nail.


They might lose the game if their key player is ill.


This sentence uses ‘lose’ as a verb, describing what might happen if a player was ill.


·         Accept or Except? – Use ‘accept’ when something is being received and use ‘except’ to indicate the exclusion of something.




I’ll accept your contract on the house if we can close in thirty days.


This sentence correctly uses ‘accept’ in the context of receiving a contract.


I have everything I need, except a warm jacket.


‘Except’ is used in this sentence to indicate that a warm jacket is missing.


·         Complement or Compliment? - These two words are commonly misused in writing. A good rule to remember in this case is that ‘compliment’ is when you’re praising something and ‘complement’ is used mostly when matching something.




She enjoyed the compliments from the group after her speech.


Praise was given to the speaker after the speech.


The paint color complements the colors in the curtains.


This sentence indicates that the paint color and the colors in the curtains work together.


·         Assure, Ensure or Insure? – It’s difficult to remember how to use these three words unless you understand the more intricate part of their meanings. Each word essentially means the same thing – to secure or be certain of - but digging a bit deeper gets to the real meanings.




I can assure you that I would be the best person for the job.


This sentence uses ‘assure’ to make sure that the person knows you’re serious and adamant.


We’re going to ensure that you make the meeting tomorrow by giving you a wake-up call.


‘Ensure’ in the second sentence means making something possible – or a ‘sure thing.’


Did the company insure coverage of the totaled car?


The best way to think of insure is to associate it with insurance. It guarantees something. Some people use ensure and insure interchangeably.


·         Pique, Peak or Peek? – Pique is an emotional high point and peak is the highest point of something, while peek means to look at something.




Did the marketer pique your interest with his sales copy?


In this case, pique raised your emotions.


After he climbed to the peak of the rock formation, he took time to enjoy the view.


‘Peak’ is used in this sentence to show that he climbed to the very top of the rock formation.


I went and peeked at my Christmas present under the tree.


This sentence uses peeked to show someone looked at something.


·         Then or Than? – They’re both spelled correctly, but each is used in a different context. Don’t confuse your reader by using them incorrectly.




We went to dinner and then drove to the theater.


‘Then’ indicates what you did during the time after you went to dinner.


He’s much more athletic than I am.


You’re comparing something when you use ‘than’ in a sentence.


·         Copyright or Copywrite? – Copyright is a word meaning exclusive rights to a product. Copywrite isn’t a word, but copywriter is, so some people become confused about using copywrite to explain what a copywriter does.




Be sure and put a copyright notice on your manuscript.


When you ‘copyright’ something, it means that you have exclusive rights to it and it can’t be sold or marketed without your permission.


I’m going to hire a copywriter to copy write a sales page for my web site.


This sentence tells the reader that you’re going to hire a professional copywriter to write specific information for a sales page. ‘Copy’ and ‘write’ is correctly used as two separate words.


·         Counsel or Council? – These two words are often confused. Remember that ‘Counsel’ can be a noun or a verb and ‘council’ is used as a noun to help you know which to choose which to use when you’re writing.




She is going to counsel them about marriage before the wedding.


‘Counsel’ is used as a verb, meaning ‘advise.’


My counsel says that the trial will begin next month.


‘Counsel’ is being used as a noun meaning a lawyer or group of lawyers.


The council meets on the last Thursday of the month and we will vote on the amendment then.


‘Council’ means a committee or board and is used as a noun.


·         Lie or Lay? – These two words trip up lots of writers, and only until you know the true meaning of each will you understand which to use.


Use the word, ‘lie,’ as a verb when you’re explaining a situation of reclining, staying or telling fibs.


Use ‘lie’ as a noun when you’re using it to explain untruths or false stories.


Use the word, ‘lay’ as a verb when you want to describe something as being placed or arranged.


Use ‘lay’ as an adjective when you want to refer to someone as an amateur or non-professional.




I’m going to lie down and take a nap before dinner.


In this sentence, ‘lie’ is used as a verb, meaning that you’re going to recline.


She tells lies and then begins to believe they’re true.


‘Lies’ in this case is used as a noun to describe untruths.


As soon as Bobby lays down his toy, we’ll go to the park.


‘Lay’ is used as a verb, meaning that an object is about to be put down.


A lay-person can’t practice law without a license.


Here, ‘lay’ is used to describe a person who is unqualified to practice law.


Spelling is truly a skill that can set you apart as a good writer. Thank goodness that we now have great spell-checkers that come with our computers, but they’re not foolproof. If you really have a problem with spelling, go the extra mile and take time to edit or outsource your work to an editor for additional help.


There are some specific spell check software packages you can get that are geared toward normal grammar/spelling checks and some are targeted to medical writing, legal writing and more.

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