By Davii Mandel
This picture, sadly, made headlines for all the wrong reasons. There was even a great subtitle to it – How about we start by respecting English?
Now, Grammarly, or another grammar checking program would have flagged this as incorrect usage, but did you know that a spellchecking program would not have? That’s right.
Many of us rely on MS Word’s spellcheck, assuming it will let us know if we are misspelling anything in our documents. But, look more closely, the word “are” isn’t mispelled. It’s being used in the wrong context. And spellcheck can’t pick that up.
A word that sounds the same as another word, but has a different meaning is called a homophone. Like “dear” and “deer”. And “for” and “four”. There are over 300 of them in the English language. And many homophones not only sound the same, they may have very similar meanings, such as “their” and “they’re” or “your” and “you’re” and the commonly abused “its” and “it’s”.
As proofreaders and editors, it’s our job (see? Used it the right way!) to not only snag simple spelling mistakes, but to really read and understand the text in order to catch those tricky word usage problems.
Unfortunately, even Grammarly doesn’t always catch word usage issues. Plus, there are so many new terms that are considered slang or marketing jargon that need special consideration depending on context. This type of inspection can really use a human touch.
Can I take this moment to give a plug to all of those proofreaders and editors out there? They are the unsung heroes behind virtually every type of professionally written material. They make it so that your message gets across clearly and isn’t misunderstood. They help you to make the most effective impact by gently improving wording and strengthening your communication.
Whether you choose to pay a proofreader to look over your work or not, keep in mind that word usage matters to the overall impression of your work and of YOU as a professional in your field. Make sure to go over your work a few times (and preferably get a second or third set of eyes to scour it too) before publishing. This way, your message will come through with the most impact and there won’t be any distractions for the reader along the way.