John McIntyre wrote recently in his You Don’t Say blog about whether an incorrect spelling could be considered a typo rather than a writer’s ignorance of the correct word. The example he used is principle/principal. As Mr. McIntyre wrote, sometimes the writer merely mistypes, but sometimes the mistake is the result of confusion.
Regardless of the reason the wrong word appears, it is the copy editor’s job to correct it. That’s why I use such word usage problems for my Grammar Guide quizzes. The quizzes have two purposes: (1) To help those who may not know the difference between often confused words and (2) to give practice to those who know the difference but need to hone their skill at recognizing the instances when those errors crop up. (Actually, the quizzes have a third purpose: fun for me.)
Truly, most people who write for a living know the difference between principle and principal, but in the rush of writing, they type the wrong word. Spell checkers won’t help the writer find these errors; only the keen eye of an editor (or sometimes the writer during revision) will find the problem.
Today’s quiz (No. 68) will give you multiple-choice practice in determining the correct word in 10 sentences. I have set the quiz to send me messages because I like to find out how many people are trying the quizzes, but your scores are anonymous. If you have feedback, please leave a comment or send me an email message.
Click on the quiz and have fun. Feel free to share the quiz link with friends, colleagues or students.