Common Misspellings and Misnomers

A command of the language is a competence that a writer must possess. When words are misspelled in queries and manuscripts it’s a big red flag, needless to say. Not only is it interrupting the flow of your work because they stand out, but also shows the work may not have been proofread carefully enough. Misnomers are worrisome as they suggest that you may not have a good enough understanding of the dexterity needed to be a writer.

Words that commonly stand out in queries and manuscripts:

  • Chose vs. Choose – Chose is past tense and choose is present tense.
  • Peaked vs. Piqued – You can pique interest but not peak it.
  • Drier vs. Dryer – A dryer is a type of electrical appliance for clothes and hair. Drier is a comparative adjective.
  • Than vs. Then – Than is a comparison, while then is a description of time.
  • Averse vs. Adverse – Averse is a dislike or opposition of a person’s attitude, for example. Adverse is an unfavourable or hostile attitude to events, conditions or places–not people.
  • Accurate vs. Precise – You can be accurate without being precise. Accurate denotes being close to a measurement and precise means a high degree of exactitude.
  • As regards vs. In regard to – These are often confused. ‘As regards to our correspondence on…’ is acceptable; however, it is never ‘in regards to’ only ‘in regard to’.
  • E.g. vs. I.e. – For example vs. In other words

Never assume you are right, always fact check.

Q: What are your grammar pet peeves? 

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

10 thoughts on “Common Misspellings and Misnomers

  1. My husband hates when people say, “I could care less,” instead of “I couldn’t care less.” I say it wrong just to hear him complain! :)

    For me, grammar/spelling issues and my auto correct tend to play off each other. On the one hand, it really helps my typing dyslexia, changing ‘teh’ to ‘the’ and recognizing that most of my ‘form’s should be ‘from’s.

    On the other hand, it can also make things worse. For instance I ALWAYS mistype the word ‘definitely’, by my auto correct makes it ‘defiantly’. Half the time I don’t even realize until someone else reads it. Drives me nuts!


  2. You already mentioned one of my pet peeves. I cringe when I see people use ‘than’ rather than ‘then’ and the other way around. I find that, even if someone has difficulties with that, it’s more often than not ‘than’.


      1. Having a running post would be good, since there are a lot of common mistakes. Another one I see a lot, especially for younger writers, is mixing ‘there’, ‘they’re’ and ‘their’.


  3. This one is becoming so commonplace that I’m afraid it’s a lost cause, but I’ll mention it anyway. It’s saying something like, “I’m going to try and go to the store this afternoon.” I’m sure the person doesn’t mean that he is doing two separate things, “trying” and “going”. What he is doing is “trying TO go to the store”. Writing this just now has actually brought to mind another error that has become common, even in journalism: my above sentence, too often, would have been written as, “I’m sure the person doesn’t mean that THEY are doing two separate things.” Agreement, people, agreement! And I won’t even get into the waning use of the lovely subjunctive, saying “I wish I was in Texas” rather than, “I wish I were in Texas” . . .


      1. Not to belabor the point, but another irritating usage happened to pop onto my computer screen this morning, making me realize how quickly it’s worming its way into the common lexicon. Now, I would have had my college papers blue-penciled into oblivion for this “crime”, but apparently these days one receives a get-out-of-jail-free card for it and is good to go. Every time I come across this phrase it causes my teeth to grind; they’ll be worn to nubs before anyone cares, though, so I’d better get over it. The offense is this: “continue on”. As in, being told on my health plan’s site this morning that if I wished to leave a message for my doctor, I should “continue on to the next page”. “Continue” MEANS “to go on”, people! We Americans do love to tack on useless little words – the more the better. “Continue on” is a kissing cousin of “revert back”, and I hate them, redundancies both.
        And while I’m on my rant, why not mention another tooth-grinder: “the reason why”. Ahem. “Why” is for beginning a question. Hence, one might ask, “Why are you going to Paris?” And the answer might be, “The reason I am going to Paris is that . . . ” or simply, “The reason is . . .”, not (shudder) “the reason why”.


      2. Redundancies are a big one. I think it is because the phrases are so widely used that people don’t think twice about saying them, but when writing they should take more care.


  4. Yes, good point! It’s easy to forget that the colloquial phrases that are so much fun to bandy about carelessly with friends become jarring in the written form. Unless they’re being used for authenticity in dialogue, they’re just glaring errors that stop the reader in his tracks – never a good thing.


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