Once of the decisions writers make when they’re indie publishing is whether to hire someone else to edit their work. All too often these days I run across an ebook that could have absolutely used another set of eyes on it, and even though Spell Check does a great job catching misspellings, over-reliance on it leads us to the dreaded Spell Czech.*
A Spell Czech is when you have a perfectly good word in a sentence, but it’s not what you intended.
There are a few ways this happens:
- AutoCorrect messes you up, and you miss that mistake in edits.
- Synonym Finder puts in a synonym, but it’s not quite right.
- Homonyms trip you up.
Now I think that all of us have experienced the first instance. You’re typing along madly and AutoCorrect is going along behind you and changing your words, often with comical results. You can turn AutoCorrect off, but I don’t. I cannot spell the words just or because without screwing them up.
I usually catch a writer doing this when they’re trying to be a good writer. They’re typing along and realize they’ve used the word ‘lectured’ too often. So they click on synonym finder and it tells them ‘bloviated’ is a synonym. And we get this:
He lectured her on economics.>>> He bloviated her on economics.
Uh, this doesn’t work. Technically, the two words are, loosely, synonyms. However…lecture can be used as transitive or intransitive, while bloviate is pretty firmly intransitive. So someone who knows the word bloviate will find this jarring and…well, unfortunate.
These are easy to make. I had the word mantle in a manuscript for a long time before my mom caught that it should be mantel. Nothing will get a writer past homonym issues faster than awareness. Here’s a great list: Alan Cooper’s Homonyms.
Some of these we learn in grade school. It’s still easy to make too/to/two mistakes decades later, and the internet is full of they’re/their/there and your/you’re issues.
But what I’ve seen a lot lately is the more obscure ones like PEAK/PEEK/PIQUE.
One does not engage in a fit of peak. One does not eat a hardy meal. One does not pay their dos.
(I’ve seen variations of all of those lately. They make me strongly consider putting the book down.)
Right or wrong, I tend to associate all of these mistakes with people who are not as well read. The last one in particular seems to be the province of someone who’s heard an expression spoken aloud, but has never seen it in print. (This is the opposite of kids who mispronounce words because they’ve only seen them in print, but have never heard them spoken aloud.)
I have to admit, I’ve had things edited, and we STILL find mistakes in them several passes later. However, a lot of these things can be caught by a copy editor. This is why, for my novels, I pay someone to copy edit for me. (Rick at EQP BOOKS is great!)
(I did several posts at my old website about things I learned from my copy editors. I still struggle with DUE TO/BECAUSE OF, though.)
So if you’re having problems, try a copy editor, and try to learn from what they point out…
*I don’t know who first used this term. It is not mine. I am simply not that clever.