Word Mistakes Writers Should Be Ashamed Of Making

As writers, we all have particular mistakes that just make us grind our teeth.  Usually it’s stuff we see the general public do because they–well I wanted to say that it was inappropriate to say they didn’t know better but given the state of education these days, yeah, because they don’t know any better.  But I’ve seen an increasing number of writers making these mistakes.  Not so much in books but in social media and blog posts.  The occasional mistake that’s an obvious typo–okay fine.  Saying stuff like their vs. they’re, its vs. it’s.  It’s casual conversation and obviously they weren’t just paying attention.  I have a particular habit of typing “no” when I mean “not” because the “t” sticks on my keyboard (and possibly I am channeling my inner Scot).

But there are a handful of mistakes that any writer should just flat be ashamed of making.

Insure vs. Ensure

This is possibly my number one, teeth grinding irritation when ANYONE uses it.  Because people do.  Use it wrong.  ALL THE TIME.  I have been sorely tempted to deface public property at Kroger with a Sharpie because their sign uses Insure when it should be Ensure.  To clarify: “insure” deals with insurance.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  It’s talking about liability and legal crap.  “Ensure” means to make certain or to guarantee something.  Here’s a more detailed discussion by Grammar Girl, which also includes “assure” (not one I have seen misused often).

Affect vs. Effect

People use this one wrong and it’s just terrible.  You’re confusing a noun and a verb. Wholly different parts of speech.  Effect is the noun.  It basically means the result of something.  Affect is the verb.  Something is ACTING (see that A?) on something else to produce and END (see that E?) result or effect.  Again, another great discussion by Grammar Girl (who is awesome).

Voila vs. Walla

Dear freaking God, this one kills me.  BE GONE YE PHONICS-DRIVEN SPELLINGS!  Walla is not a word.  Except perhaps in reference to Walla Walla the location.  The WORD, which people are using as essentially Ta Da! is Voila.  It’s French.  Do not desecrate the word by pulling out freaking PHONICS on it (yeah I’m a whole language person).  Learn the proper spelling or don’t use it.  Period.

25 thoughts on “Word Mistakes Writers Should Be Ashamed Of Making

  1. Okay, the ‘there’ vs ‘they’re’ vs ‘their’ and ‘you’re’ vs ‘your’ and ‘its’ vs ‘it’s’ all drive me totally insane. What’s worse is when I go back and read something I wrote and realize I made the same mistake. Grrr… I honestly try to come off as being at least semi-intelligent. 😉
    Great post. I have to admit that I have a problem with ‘affect’ and ‘effect.’ For some reason it’s one of those words that I have to think about before I use. Of course I suppose that’s the point.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I confess, when I see those kinds of mistakes in tweets and in blog posts (more than one or two that are obviously typos that weren’t caught), I’m much less inclined to go read whatever fiction they’ve written because I question their ability to edit.

  2. Loved your blog. Aside from the ones already mentioned by you and the commenters, here are the ones that get me, TO vs. TOO. The use of was when it should be WERE.

  3. I admit I’ve done the affect effect thing once or twice.
    I have a few more for you: than & then, addicting vs. addictive, and peaked vs. piqued.

  4. Actually, “affect” can be a noun and “effect” a verb—they’re just very rarely used that way. So rarely, in fact, that you can assume that a noun should be “effect” and a verb should be “affect”.

    I get a bit annoyed by “Here, here!” myself when folks mean “Hear, hear!”

  5. Walla? Thank goodness, I’ve never run into that one. In today’s blog post, I mentioned a book reviewer talking about people being imprisoned in glass viles, and that got me into a conversation with another blogger who’s also driven crazy by those mistakes. In the course of the conversation, it occurred to me that most of the errors represent how the words *sound* because today’s writers don’t read very widely and have little familiarity with more than a basic vocabulary.

    1. Phonics made me a terrible speller. It wasn’t until I started reading widely and a LOT that I finally internalized WHOLE WORDS and how they were CORRECTLY spelled.

  6. LMAO! I read the part of Voila vs. Walla, and I thought…What is walla? Do I not know a word I should be using?!! LOL. Thankfully NO! I use voila and I’m good. Thanks for the funny!

  7. As Kait’s mother, I have a few things that bother me……using “they” or “their” in reference to an individual. While this is widely in use, “they” or “their” denotes plural. As a retired banking employee, “checkings” account is wrong. It also drives me crazy when tense is misused as “Those checks come through your account last night” instead of “Those checks came through your account last night”. Lordy!

  8. I see these kinds of errors every day in the newspaper. You’d think that the editor would catch them. Their attitude seems to be that if it gets past spell-check it MUST be right.

  9. Very happy I haven’t done any of those.Although I’ve written my own share of mistakes. Thank god for drafts.

  10. My pet hate is when writers say (or rather, write) “Without further adieu.” Another language fail, only this time it isn’t French; it’s “Without further ADO.”

    Oh, and ‘addicting’ has already been mentioned but by God, I hate that word with the passion of a thousand dictionary-fuelled bonfires.

    1. I laughed out loud at your picture, “with the passion of a thousand dictionary-fueled bonfires”. And I also laughed aloud at my own post, where I misspelled the second word in my own diatribe, that very complicated two letter word, “is”. :/

  11. A too long comment on Walla (forgive me!): Walla Walla is the name of a group of people that was one of the Sahaptin Tribes that lived along the Columbia River. The word is commonly translated as ‘many waters” (or water water, I guess! Water Water everywhere!). The Walla Walla tribe fished along the steep banks of the Columbia River Gorge, near Umatilla (along with the Umatilla and Cayuse tribes), taking euchalon (native smelt) and salmon, as well as deer, elk, native roots (camas bulb) and berries, that were plentiful in the area. The Walla Walla River runs into the Columbia. There are now almost 200 wineries in the area – including Waters, which names itself after the Walla Walla name for the area.

    A great quote about words and names (and water!) from: http://www.umatilla.nsn.us/hist3.html#lifecycle

    The earth provided all the food the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla peoples needed:

    “I wonder if the ground has anything to say? I wonder if the ground is listening to what is said? I wonder if the ground would come alive and what is on it? Though I hear what the ground says. The ground says, it is the great spirit that placed me here. The great spirit tells me to take care of the Indians, to feed them alright. The great spirit appointed the roots to feed the Indians on. The water says the same thing. The great spirit directs me, feed the Indians well. The ground, water and grass say, the great spirit has given us our names. We have these names and hold these names. The ground says, the great spirit has placed me here to produce all that grows on me, trees and fruit. The same way the ground says, it was from me man was made. The great spirit, in placing men on the earth, desired them to take good care of the ground and to do each other no harm…

    Young Chief
    1855 Treaty Council

  12. Oh this stuff drives me batty!
    But you know what’s weird? Diana Gabaldon’s books always spell it “insure”. It confuses the heck out of me; I always thought it was an American thing, but maybe not?

  13. Love it, Kait! It’s also not “peaked my interest,” but rather “piqued my interest.” To “pique” means to arouse. One more is that you “could NOT care less.” If you could care less, then you care some. If you could NOT care less, then you care as little as is possible–meaning none at all. Great post!

  14. affect/effect get me every time. I just can’t get it straight for some reason…well, probably because they throw the either/or at me, meaning either can be a noun or a very. I need a trick or a joke of some kind to help me get that one. Stephen King used to give us tricks to remember the difference but I don’t remember one for these words. For example the trick for desert/dessert is to remember that the food item has sweet stuff so dessert which we’d see mirages while wandering the desert sand. Any trick for affect/effect or do I have to go get the Transitive Vampire in hopes of finding one there?

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