Saturday, October 13, 2007

Backyard Check Required

One of my favorite past times is watching Jay Leno's "Headline" segment each Monday night where he points out typos and other errors in all kinds of printed material.

This week, he displayed an ad from an organization looking to hire home health care professionals. Among the bullet pointed qualification requirements there was this sentence:

"Backyard check required."

Chuckle. Chuckle.

Unfortunately, spell check will not catch all the mistakes of a well-intentioned writer, especially when the incorrect word is spelled correctly. Spell check assumes we writers know what we are doing and will not question you about a "backyard check" being a valid step toward gainful employment. (Perhaps that's a good idea, but that's a blog of another color.)

Since I am poking fun at this ad, I will offer another error of this ilk. It comes from my own writing.

In a screenplay I submitted to a contest five years ago, I included this sentence:

"He walked in the room with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waste."

Ewwwww! What I meant to write was, of course, "wrapped around his waist."

Here we have the dreaded homophone error: words that sound alike, but have different meanings. (Brake/break. Mail/Male) This mistake is among the easiest to commit, the most difficult to catch and as in my example, one of the most embarrassing.

Two actions keep one from making these mistakes.

1. Have a friend proof your work.
2. Read your work aloud.

These steps take an investment of time, but isn't the difference between waste/waist worth it?

Perhaps you have a homophone error you'd like to share?


Karen Harrington is the author of the novel JANEOLOGY (Spring 2008/Kunati Books).

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