Actually, the wordos are already here. Probably have been ever since people started using that new-fangled tool – writing – to make something other than inventory lists. Since you won't find wordo in the dictionary, I'll start with a definition and some examples.
Wordos are related to typos because they’re mistakes in writing, but they’re different because they’re not misspellings or letters out of order. Like typos, they’re committed by everyone, and, in spite of our best efforts, wordos show up everywhere. from class newsletters to the august pages of the New York Times. Generally speaking there are three basic types of wordos. Cleverly, I call them Type A, Type B, and Type C.
Did you ever ask yourself, “Is it site or cite, rite or right, and principle or principal?” and then use the wrong one? And your spell checker didn’t help because it doesn’t see anything wrong. And there’s not, as far as the spelling goes. The problems is that they’re homophones, words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. I call these Type A Wordos, and there’s a lot of ‘em.
When a Type A Wordo falls under the general heading of grammar, it gets to be a Type B Wordo. You know that you want to use a pronoun, but it could be there, their, or they’re. (More homophones). Or you use a pronoun, and you get her and she mixed up. Misplaced apostrophes fall into this type, too. When what should be a plural becomes a possessive, the boys’ home instead of the boy’s home, you’ve got a Type B. These are probably the most common wordos and often the hardest to catch.
For people who try to be really accurate when it comes to choosing just the right word, there’s the Type C Wordo to watch out for. This when you make the wrong choice between two words because they get interchanged in casual writing, or they’re words that have related or even overlapping meanings. You write, “Presently, he’s sleeping,” instead of “currently,” Or, you write, "The landscape was primordial,” when you really meant “primeval.” Some common pairs are between vs. among, less vs. fewer, aggravate vs. annoy and historic vs. historical.
I must admit that I know a lot about wordos because I go looking for them. I hunt them down. They can make for some pretty amusing reading. I especially like the mental pictures they conjure up. In an article about getting published, the writer described meeting an editor who was very negative about his work. He wrote, “I was so crushed that I left with my tale between my legs.” Just picture that. He went in with his novel, and after the editor told him how bad it was, he left with the manuscript clamped between his knees. Now, that’s a wordo worth its salt. And that’s only one of hundreds I’ve collected (or committed).
I hope this has grabbed your attention, because this is the first in a series of articles in which I’ll tell you about wordos I’ve encountered and explain why the choice the writer made was not the best one. It should be fun. A few laughs with an occasional “Gee, I didn’t know that!” thrown in. All you have to do is keep looking for the Wordo Alerts! from yours truly, Prof. Wordo (No, that’s wordo).
You can ask Prof. Wordo your own wordy question at askprofwordo@WriteRiteRight.com
About The Author
Bill Moore (aka Prof. Wordo) is the author of Write Rite Right: A Compendium Of Homonyms, Homophones, & Frequently Misapplied Words. Because of his half-century love affair with all things language-related—written and spoken, and his degrees in theatre and English, Bill has the credentials and the passion to produce consistently well-researched content backed up by recognized authorities on the most widely accepted standards of usage. Visit Bill’s Website, http://www.WriteRiteRight.com
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The Wordo Alert columns by Prof. Wordo identify and explain frequent misuses of words—even by professionals—in a style that is light and entertaining but absolutely spot on when it come to how words should be used.