For whom the bell knells, redux

This is an update of a post a few years back on words that mix us writers up.

If only Hemingway had used that for his title, maybe I wouldn’t have had a character knelling to pray in a finished manuscript submitted to a prestigious contest.  I got got of course, and I won’t (probably) make that mistake again, but then again, maybe I will.  It’s not exactly a homonym, but it’s one of those close-enough-that-spell-check-lets-it-pass nyms.

Recently a fellow writer pointed out that I’ve been using discrete for discreet for decades, highly embarrassing.  Hopefully my errors were so discreet that no one noticed.

As writers, we try really hard to not let our bares bare arms in their bear arms, and we make little checklists of these homonyms (and other nyms):

  • “There, there, they’re there,” said their father
  • You bear arms in bare arms
  • “Nell, pleas kneel when the bell knells,” said Neal
  • It’s its…
  • Hear here
  • The deserter ate dessert in the desert
  • The cavalry never arrived at Calvary
  • “Yea, I said yeah,”  (or is it “Yeah, I said yea”?)
  • Who’s is whose?
  • In order not to err, the heir came up for air
  • Please be discreet about the discrete errors I’ve made
  • Do you hale from a land with lots of hail?
  • A writer must be hardy to endure the hearty laughs at his or her errors
  • Some writers flaunt their flouting of rules
  • I’m writing a book about the soft petals of roses that I intend to soft pedal to publishers (not really)
  • It is not an everyday occurrence to use everyday instead of every day

Been burned on more than a few of these. When I was writing “The Cavalryman’s Saber,” I looked up  cavalry vs Calvary a dozen times , since the cavalryman was not a Calvaryman.

As for whom the bell knells, it knells for The.

Feel free to post your personal nemeses (which is indeed the plural of nemesis, I just double checked)

CR Hodges

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5 Responses to For whom the bell knells, redux

  1. drcathy says:

    Having a beta reader or two can help, as can reading your work aloud.

    • crhodges says:

      Excellent suggestions In fact a beta reader found my discrete vs discreet goober. As for reading aloud, I know it’s a good idea but I just don’t have the patience to do so. I did have one story published in audio format, and it blew my socks off to hear it read that way (the voice artist did a way better job of reading than I ever could). But I found a very disturbing echo in one place post facto, bummer.

  2. janschubert says:

    Here’s one to add to the list:
    – The hunter waits with bated breath, watching the baited trap.
    Though this site http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bai1.htm says that baited is so frequently incorrectly used for bated that it may become accepted usage.

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