Which is witch?

15 Jan

Two, to, too.  For, four, fore.  There, their, they’re.

How on earth do you know which one to use when?

Practice, practice, practice – with a bit of patience thrown in for good measure. A handy dictionary (and the willingness to use it) is a good tool, as well.

A couple of week ago, sadly, a car went into Lake Erie in the park next door to where I live. The initial story said the rescuers fastened wrenches to the back end of the car to pull it out of the water. You can imagine the ensuing hilarity from the comments generated by this short bulletin. Wrenches? Wenches?  Winches? Most people seemed to know the difference, and the reporter (or his editor) quickly fixed the mistake. This is a fairly common one, actually. I’ve seen it dozens of times, especially as editorial standards have slipped somewhat in the last ten or so years.

There are really lots of these kinds of word pairs or triplets! Collectively, they’re known as ‘homonyms’ or words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and generally have vastly different meanings. We won’t even get into the words that are spelled and sound alike (such as lead/lead, read/read etc.) but do have more than one meaning, depending on usage. Nor will we get into regional mis-pronunciations that have standardized themselves for their particular geographical areas. (Renches for rinses, for instance, in the American south.)

These words are famous for tripping up every writer out there. It’s vital that you learn them, how to spell and use them correctly. Remember the rule of Spell-check: It will (perhaps) tell you if the word is spelled correctly, but it will most likely NOT tell you if it is the correct word for your particular usage. (I’m sure there are more of these verbal siblings out there, but we’ll start off with these.)

accept/except

affect/effect

baited/bated

bridal/bridle

conscious/conscience

counsel/council/console

counselor/councilor

dear/deer

doe/dough

faint/feint

farther/further

know/no

lead/lead/led

palate/palette/pallet

past/passed

pore/pour

principal/principle

rain/rein/reign

stationary/stationery

then/than  (not strictly one, but close)

waste/waist

wave/waive

weather/whether

your/you’re/yore

A really good exercise is to write a sentence using each word correctly. Do you want to consider this a test? No time limits, but if you want to, send your completed efforts along to me, and I’ll check them over for you!  Actually, if you know of more of this type of mis-used word pairs or triplets, please do send them along. I’m hoping to finish up my How to Write a Book Book this year, and get it published, so this is an important chapter! I’ll even give the contributor credit for the help! Thanks in advance!

As always if you have comments or questions, feel free! My e-mail is: bookmechanicATgmail.com  Cheers!

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2 Responses to “Which is witch?”

  1. Judy Scott January 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Love this!! Right up my alley..or is that ally 😉 I am a grammar nerd. My biggest beef is I vs me. But I am going to do the exercise.

  2. Susan January 17, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    This is a good exercise. When I first started reading, I thought, I won’t come across any words that trip me up. Alas, baited, and bated made the list and now I have to check my dictionary!

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