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 Spelling Lesson

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Spelling Lesson Empty
PostSubject: Spelling Lesson   Spelling Lesson EmptyThu Jan 06 2011, 23:51

1. Using Spell-check

Almost every word processor has a spell-check feature built in.  Use it.  It will catch most typos and basic spelling mistakes- like if you spell "definitely" as "definately" or "the" as "teh". 

HOWEVER: spell-checks are not perfect.  They only tell you if you spelled a word correctly, not whether you spelled the right word correctly.  If you use the word "that" instead of "the", spell-check doesn't know there's a problem.

But an even larger problem is with words that are not in the dictionary.  This is a big problem for fan fiction authors, since we use a lot of names, places, and other made-up words.  So what can you do?  Most word processors allow you to add words to the program's dictionary (read the Help file for your word processor to learn how, because it may be different in each program).  But before you add a word, make sure you're spelling it right:

For non-Inheritance words: most word processors don't think the word "dialogue" is a word (they think it should be spelled "dialog").  But dialogue is a word.  On the other hand, words we use everyday like "OK" are NOT real words (the real word is "okay").  So make sure you look up anything you add in a dictionary- either one of those big paper things, or on (I recommend this site for ease of use and quality of definitions; be careful if you use another website that it is a legitimate source-- may not be your best choice).

For Inheritance words: use the glossary in the back of the books, find the word you're looking for in the story text, or use the Shur'tugal Inheritance wiki.  Make sure the spelling is correct before you add it to your dictionary!  This especially goes for names- there is nothing more embarrassing than calling "Arya" by the fake name, "Aria".  Note: If a word has a special character (like the umlauts over the e in Alagaësia), you can add it in as a special character or symbol in your word processor (again, see the Help file for your word processor to learn how to do this).

For original words: Pick a spelling and stick with it.  If you have a character called Elosi but sometimes you call her "Elosy", your spell-checker isn't going to be happy.  And if you add both spellings to your dictionary, your word processor won't know there is a problem.

2. Picking the right word

As mentioned above, your spell-checker can't tell you if you used the correct word, just whether or not you've spelled it correctly.  Nothing can replace a human eye in determining what words you SHOULD be using, and if this isn't your forte, you need to find a skilled beta-reader to help you out.

The biggest trap authors fall into is using the wrong homophone- words that sound the same but have different meanings.  Here is a list of the commonly confused words, but there are plenty more:

Your and You're
Your: possessive, referring to something you own.  For example, "your laptop" or "your turn".
You're: contraction of "you" and "are".  For example, "you're going to the store" and "you're the best".

Two, Too, and To
Two: the number 2.  For example, "I have two fics" and "two days have gone by."
Too:  also.  For example, "Me too!" or  "I, too, am a Pisces."
To: directional, indicating you're going somewhere or doing something (pretty much, everything that isn't "two" or "too").  For example, "I am going to the store" and "I have to do this."

Than and Then
Than: comparative, showing the difference between one thing and another.  For example "I like apples more than oranges" and "he knows more than me."
Then: chronological, something that happens after something else.  For example, "then what?" or "I went to school, then I went to practice."

There, Their, and They're
There: location, indicating a specific place.  For example, "I live over there" or "there he is."
Their: possessive, something they own.  For example, "that's their house" or "I saw their car."
They're: contraction of "they" and "are."  For example, "they're late for the party" or "they're lost."

Its and It's
Its: possessive, something "it" owns.  For example, "the dog lost its ball" or "its color is brown."
It's: contraction of "it" and "is".  For example, "It's over" or "thank goodness it's Friday."

Lose and Loose
Lose: the opposite of win.  For example, "The Varden can't lose!" or "We're losing his trail."
Loose: the opposite of tight.  For example, "Your screws are loose" or "I can't loosen the lid to this jar."

There are far more words than what I've listed here, so just remember to be careful and, when in doubt, look it up!

3. A note about your thesaurus

Besides the dictionary, your other major word tool is the thesaurus.  It is a good idea to add variety in your writing by using different words and adding description to your story. 

However, be careful how you use a thesaurus.  All words don't mean the same thing--"big" isn't the same as "gigantic" even though they both mean "large",  and "pink" isn't the same as "burgundy" even though they are both shades of red.  Never use a word you don't know without looking it up in the dictionary to find out its exact definition and/or reading it in context in another story.  You may change the entire meaning of your sentence by using the wrong word.

Also, be wary of using too many "big" words.  As an author, you should always keep your audience in mind.  If you're not talking to a room full of lawyers, don't talk about "malice aforethought" and "vested remainders".  Unless your reader is a walking dictionary, don't use too many words that most people don't know; your reader shouldn't need a dictionary just to understand what's going on in your story.  Use uncommon words when you need them, not just to make you "look better" or "seem smarter".  You won't succeed at either and you'll alienate a lot of readers. 
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