All but the most expert and diligent make them, and it seems that all but the most pedantic ignore them, but what are the most common spelling mistakes?
I’m basing this on the mistakes I see constantly on the internet and in text messaging.
I’ve chosen a very few of those that I see commonly for this first article. There will be more to follow. Here are some of the worst culprits!
Then and than
People endlessly mix these up with such horrors as:
Better then that. The pen is mightier then the sword. If you don’t like it than go away. I got in the car than I drove off.
Aaaagh! It’s enough to make a grammarian scream! In case you don’t understand the difference, let me explain. Then is a preposition of time. That means it marks something happening at a period in time, and in the following case it happens after something else – I went to the shops, then I went home. It can also be used as a predictor of what might happen after – If you do that (eat the entire wedding cake), then this will happen (you will be sick). Then again, it sometimes means also and on second thoughts, like it just did then. And then, (following on from that) there’s its other meaning… a preposition of time in the past, as you saw then in the previous sentence. Or it can be used as a precursor to a suggestion/instruction, similarly to so – “I don’t like my husband’s smelly feet!” “Then ditch him.” ( a bit harsh I concede)… And then there were none… just like that.
Than is a comparative which is a word English uses to compare one thing with another. In other words – He is fatter than her OR you can’t hit the cricket ball further than Johnny. Corfu costs less than Rhodes OR Jeremy Corbyn has a bigger beard than Theresa May. It can also be used to mean apart from, like when you say, other than. i.e. Fatty Arbuncle has no shoes other than his winkle-pickers.
Lose and Loose
There are thousands upon thousands of people on the internet who want to loose weight. This means that they want to set their weight free from captivity, because that is the true meaning of loose. The best example of this is in the Bible where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and says, loose him and let him go. He isn’t telling them to deposit Lazarus somewhere in the desert where he cannot be found, he is telling them to, well, let him go (after unwrapping his bandages that were used in the embalming process). OK, you’ve got the point… The main point here is that LOOSE and LOSE are not the same word at all. Loose is a verb that goes like this… loose, loosed, have loosed, will loose, and means what I just said it meant.
I suspect that those unsuspecting dieters rather than generously wishing to liberate their extra pounds are in fact hoping to LOSE them, which is part of the same verb you use when you lose your car keys… and how annoying is that? Well it regularly happens to me, along with losing my car… That lovely verb goes: lose, lost, have lost, will lose. So there.
Too and to
While we are on the O an OO conversation, this is another one that people commonly misspell. I was quite perplexed when I first came across this as these are totally different words in meaning, as are then and than. Once again, one of them, to, is that lovely friend, a PREPOSITION. That is a little word that denotes time or place, among other similar concepts. This one denotes movement, you know, that little thing that happens when you go from one place TO another? It also forms the beginning of what are called infinitives of verbs, such as in the sentence I love TO dance, or as Shakespeare said, to be or not to be. In that form it isn’t a preposition. There are other meanings of that tiny to word, too many to go into here… which brings me onto TOO.
It’s easier to explain by saying what TOO is. Basically, if what you are saying does not fit either of the two meanings of too, you need to use to, not too… confused? You will be… here they are:
Too meaning more than is good i.e. too hot, too much, too funny (my sides burst), too sexy for my shirt etc.
Secondly, too meaning as well as… Me too! Pumpkin, butternut squash and beetroot too… yummy.
An easy way to remember this is those two meanings both mean more of something, so we add more Os. That’s way too easy to remember… see? So saying it’s to hot doesn’t make sense unless you are doing one of those MENSA style quizzes, fire is to hot as ice is to….???? (Answers on a postcard please.)
So as you can see, these little differences in spelling actually have a huge impact on the meaning of the word you are trying to convey. OK, most people can guess by the context, but my preference is for easy reading and actually having the correct word there in the first place… and that’s why I’m a proofreader, waiting to help you get your words in order.
I hope you enjoyed my little rant about spelling. There’s plently more where that came from! Bye for now.