“She plucked the weighty tomb from the shelf and–”
Ding ding! I blink and re-read the sentence.
She did what?
We’ve all been there, done that, I’m sure. We’ve all been immersed in a story, only to read something that our brain just won’t let us auto-correct, some unintentional error that drags us from the page and dumps us back into “the real world”. And unfortunately for me, one of my “talents” has always been to scan the page of a report or email or whatever, and spot the only spelling mistake. (I could only wish this talent applied to editing my own manuscripts, but alas, like writers everywhere, the more I read and re-read my own writing, the more errors I’m likely to miss — mostly missing words, or doubled-up words in my case.)
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Which is listing some of the spelling muck-ups I’ve spotted lately in published works, just in case you were wondering. And this isn’t a poke at editing, either. Believe me, I know how meticulously manuscripts will be edited by both authors and editors, and yet no matter how hard we try for perfection, some things will be missed. Among other wince-worthy boo-boos, my pet bugbears are “gauged” and “gouged”; “callus” and “callous” — I always have to stop and think about those ones. And if you add the complication of trying to get my head around American word-usage and spelling…. Ack!
So the purpose of this post is twofold: 1) if you’re a reader, to give you a chuckle, and 2) if you’re a writer, to perhaps encourage you to take note of these common errors and watch out for them in your own manuscript drafts. Because as we all know, there’s nothing worse than a spelling mistake that yanks a reader from your story!
Note: the following examples are made up, and not quoted directly from any published work. Any word-for-word quotes are entirely unintentional on my part — blame it on the fact the mistake was one that has obviously stood out and is stuck forever in my brain!
Example 1: She plucked the weighty tomb from the shelf.
Tomb: crypt, vault, grave, mausoleum
Tome: book; especially a large, heavy book on a serious subject
The first item is definitely not something that one could “pluck” from anywhere, let alone a bookshelf. At least, not unless the person doing the plucking possessed supernatural powers. (Hey, I read a lot of paranormals, OK? *g*)
Example 2: The angry diety raised his hand and smacked his kneeling worshiper upside the head.
Diety: a cute nickname for Japanese parliament members…. Just kidding!
Deity: divinity, god, idol, divine being
As far as I’m aware, “diety” isn’t a word at all, and every time I re-read the book, this spelling mistake still has the power to make me snigger and roll my eyes. I reckon it has a lot to do with the lamentable fact that “diet” is just “die” with a “t” on the end, and I always end up thinking about food. (BTW, it’s worth noting that in this story, this particular divinity happened to be a real nasty piece of work, so I can understand the compulsion to spell it DIE-ty — sooo much more evocative, LOL.)
Example 3: She stopped chunking and started tiptoeing — even though tiptoeing was not exactly easy in her kickass biker boots.
Chunking: to cut up or break up into smaller pieces. (In psychology, it’s the configuration of small units of information into large, coordinated units)
Clunking: a dull, heavy sound made when something hits a hard surface
This one just made me laugh out loud, especially when it brought to mind the slang expression “to blow chunks”.
Example 4: She clutched her stomach, fell to her knees, and wretched.
OR: She felt retched.
Wretched: physical misery, very unhappy, inciting pity
Retched: made an unsuccessful effort to vomit, or ejected the contents of the stomach through the mouth
I’ve spotted both these ones a few times lately in historical romances — definitely one to use in the correct context, methinks.
Example 5: She pursed the thief.
Pursed: puckered, squeezed, pressed together, tightened
I keep envisioning her puckering up and blowing him kisses while he runs away… with her purse . Pun intended ;-)
Example 6: She lathed his nipple.
Lathe: machine tool for shaping metal or wood
Lave: to wash or cleanse one’s body with soap and water
All I can say about this one is that it’s often incorrectly used in sex scenes and…. OWWWW!
Example 7: Puss oozed from the wound.
Puss: slang term for a domestic cat
Pus: a fluid excretion from an infected wound
Don’t know whether to laugh or wretch — I mean, retch! ‘Nuff said.
Example 8: The huge splash sent the coy darting to the other side of the pool.
Koi: ornamental domesticated variety of the common carp, or nishikigoi
Coy: affectedly modest or shy, especially in a playful or provocative way
The first “coy” reference didn’t even register on my huh?-o-meter. It went something like: The coy fish were finally enticed to the surface to nibble on her wiggling toes. Shy fish — nothing too unusual about that. But it soon became obvious with subsequent usage in the same scene that these fish were in fact coy Koi *g*
Example 9: She invaded his mind and abstracted his thoughts.
Abstracted: lost in thought, preoccupied, vague, distant, summarized, condensed.
Extracted: to take out, removed, extorted, wheedled, obtained
OK, so when I looked it up, “abstract” can also mean: to extract, take out, remove — you learn something new every day! But I’d rather read the word in a more common, well-known context, so I’m not provoked into putting down the book to check my dictionary. Is that too much to ask?
Example 10: His face turned chloric.
Chloric: no such word in any of my dictionaries
Choleric: showing or tending to show anger or irritation
Took me a few moments to figure out what “chloric” was supposed to mean because it wasn’t obvious the context. So I went for the dictionary, just in case it was some cool word I’d never encountered before. In the end I had to presume it was “choleric”. Thankfully, the clincher came a chapter or so later, when the correct word “choleric” was again used to describe that particular character, so I could finally let it go and move on and enjoy the story.
So that’s my checklist so far. Doubtless I’ll add to it as more examples come to light. And you can bet I’ll be doing word searches in my works-in-progress, too, in the hopes I’ll eliminate anything that will make a reader snort coffee from her nose. Or worse, quit reading to go find a dictionary!