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Writing Tip Wednesday: Spelling Matters


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To me, finding a spelling mistake in something I’ve written is like finding a piece of spinach that’s been stuck in my teeth the entire day. It’s just not a good look. Using correct spelling makes your writing look polished, which increases your credibility and doesn’t distract people from the point you’re trying to make. Here are six common spelling mistakes that, together, we can stop from happening and make the world a better place. (My biggest pet peeve is the first one!)

1. Stationery vs. stationary
If you’re a business owner that sells paper goods, it’s time to face the music on this one, folks. Because the stone cold truth is if you’re a stationery shop marketing your “stationary goods,” I go to bed every night crying. Crying for you and for all those disappointed people who come to your shop excited that you’ve managed to bottle the state of stillness, only to find letterpress invitations instead. Stationary is used to describe something that’s not moving (like a stationary bike), while stationery means writing materials. A little trick to help you remember the difference is that stationery is spelled with an e for envelope.

2. Loose vs. lose
Fact: Every time this spelling mistake is made, an angel does not get its wings. Use loose to describe something that’s coming free (like a loose tooth or a loose end) and use lose when you’ve lost something (e.g. lose a bet). You can never loose your mind, but you can have a few loose screws.

3. Its vs. it’s vs. its’
Its is the possessive form of it (e.g. the macaroni got its groove back), while it’s is the abbreviation for it is (e.g., it’s a great night for mac and cheese). Its’ is like a Yeti – they both don’t exist and scare me when I think about them late at night.

4. Peak vs. pique vs. peek
Peak means the highest point or a mountain top (e.g., at the peak of her career or the mountain peak), pique means to excite (e.g., the news piqued her interest) and peek means a glimpse (e.g., sneak peek).

5. Compliment vs. complement
Remember complementary angles in math class? That’s how I remember the difference between these two words. Compliment is a flattering remark or good wishes (e.g., compliments of the chef or my boss complimented my new hair cut), while complement means something that goes well with something else (e.g. wine is a great complement to pizza or those shoes really complement that dress). Grammar Girl‘s trick to remember the difference is to “tell yourself ‘I like to give compliments.’ Put the emphasis on the ‘I’ when you say or think it. The ‘I’ can remind you that the type of flattering compliment is spelled with an ‘i.'”

Many of these are examples of homophones, words that sound alike but have different meanings, so it’s easy to see why they get mixed up. I find them fascinating! (grammar nerd)

What other homophones trip you up? Also, are there any other writing tips you’d find helpful? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Last modified: January 10, 2019