People who rely on spell check too much often mix up words that sound the same but are spelled differently. If you want your readers to understand you and think you’re smart, you must avoid sound-alike traps.
Although there are way too many to list here, here are some of the common ones:
cite site sight
chord cord cored
peak peek pique
If you want to stop embarrassing yourself and confusing your readers, write a list of words you have confused and tape it prominently in your work space. If you are the slightest bit confused about any of the words on this list, start with them.
When you have a smidgen of doubt, check that you’re using the correct word by highlighting it and clicking on spelling & grammar or research in Word or the equivalents on other word processing programs. It takes only a few seconds, much less time than we used to spend hauling the fat dictionary off the shelf and leafing through.
Once you’ve caught yourself a few times, using the correct one will become automatic. Then you can cross it off the list. As long as you haven’t had to add too many new ones, you will feel good.
Don’t get me started on sound-alike pronouns, as in its and it’s, which I dumped on here.
You may not be aware of these slip-ups. So when a sound-alike mix-up is pointed out to you, usually by a baby boomer and anal person, don’t be defensive. Thank them. Add the words to your list.
Do you have any to add to mine?
Thanks to Graham Ballantyne for the photo.