It’s / its, there / their / they’re, your / you’re

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by suggesting that you don’t know when to use each of the above words. Of course you do. But your spell checker doesn’t know the difference between them. Regardless of which one appears on the page as you type your 120 words a minute, your word processor will not raise a red flag.

When you’re in the zone, when your creative side is buzzing away at speeds faster than your fingers can type, that’s when the most embarrassing typos put in an appearance. You’re not even looking at what you type, which is why you often end up with three lines in ALL CAPS before you realise you hit the caps lock key. Your fingers know the words, but they occasionally type the wrong one.

Maybe it’s a muscle memory thing, or maybe it’s because your fingers don’t have a brain. The reason doesn’t matter.

It’s the worst amateur mistake a writer can make. Scorn will be heaped upon you. Your fans will desert you. They’ll demand you return the Pulitzer, and the film rights will be back up for sale — with no takers. Yet we’ve all done it, and cringed and wept afterwards.

These words used to form part of the Possibly Misused Words list, but the blowback from writers was so severe that I removed them. (Who, me? Make a childish mistake like that? Never!) Yet you still need to watch out for them. Typos like these, it hardly bears thinking about.

Which is why they were added to the monitored words list by default. This particular check — available in both the free and licensed versions of SmartEdit — allows you to keep track of any word or phrase you wish, and to see each instance alongside the sentence it sits in. The sample below is from a blog post I wrote a few months back.

Misused Words List

There were no errors or typos in the post, but running it through SmartEdit allowed me to quickly check for just those high-school type mistakes (which you never make). Reading the sentence fragments only took a minute, and I could post my post reassured that whatever other grammatical or spelling mistakes I might have made, at least I hadn’t made one of those.

I’ll be running this post through the same check in a couple of minutes, so don’t bother trying to catch me out. Seriously though, you might never tell your friends, fans or writing partners that you check for this sort of thing in your work, but you’d be a fool not to.

If you’re running an earlier version of SmartEdit, these words may not appear in the Monitored Words List, but you can add them yourself in a few seconds, along with any other word of phrase you want to keep an eye on.

08 Apr 2014