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Proofreading: weeding out
spelling errors

Spelling errors are less common these days, due to the computer's spellchecking capabilities. (If the manuscript is 'only' typed, be vigilant.) Since the computer will pick up genuine spelling errors that result in 'gibberish,' you have the possibility of a spelling error being 'corrected' into the wrong word entirely in the spell checking process. The trick is ... when you're either proofreading or copy editing, you have to know the difference!

The computer will find these:
Brign = bring; folllow = follow; wheere = where; enrole = enroll; contemporery = contemporary; definate = definite; residentiel = residential; perequisite = prerequisite; solem = solemn; perogative = prerogative; mountainus = mountainous; affinnity = affinity; proffesional = professional; sherriff = sheriff; acoustic = accoustic; erradicate = eradicate...

The computer will not find these:
Compliment = complement; their = there; though = through; principal = principle; bright = bight; cost = coast; bow = bough; pallet = palate; crate = krait; bare = bear; price = prize; buoy = boy; gorilla = guerilla; wen = when; thee = the; broker = broken; sash = sack; cloth = clothe; sooth = soothe; reed = read; pore = pour; wait = weight; bred = bread; court = caught; jeans = genes; mite = might; lice = lies; spice = spies; wrack = rack; teeth = teethe; meet = meat; write = right; rigt = wright; wheel = we'll; urn= earn; bark = barque; flaw = floor; wring = ring; sword = soared; ice = eyes; cote = coat; mote = moat; maid; made; moan = mown...

In English, there are literally hundreds of words that sound alike, are spelled differently and have vastly different meanings. It drives tourists mad ... it makes life interesting for you, when you get your teeth into copy editing.

TIP: when you read anything, anywhere, be keenly aware of WHAT you're reading. Notice, remember or jot down things which are curious; look them up later. Keep a notebook of "weird stuff." It'll soon start to make sense.

The other side of the coin of "correct spelling" is the question of which spelling system you intend to use. UK/Australian English is quite different from American/Canadian English ... and both are correct. For the purposes of copy editing, you'll need to know which is which.

If you're writing with a publisher in London, Edinburgh, Sydney or Melborne in mind, it would be best to use the UK system. If you're targeting the New York publishers, it's very important to use the US spelling system. (These days, American authorities can be a lot less tolerant of spelling differences than their British, Aussie and Kiwi counterparts!)

There is only one cardinal copy editing (or writing) sin, and this is to mix up the two systems, willy-nilly. You'll just show your (sorry, guys!) ignorance and carelessness if you use British spellings here and American spellings there. And we've seen writers change from one to the other without a care, using "recognize" here and "recognise" there. This is actually bad mannered toward the editor or publisher ... not a good idea, when this is the person you're trying to impress.

So, what's the difference between the two spelling systems? In fact, there are hundreds of words which are spelled differently, but for copy editing purposes, you need to be aware of two things. One: the rules. Two: the exceptions to the rules.

Space and time don't permit us to go into them all, but I'll look at the broad rules, and make a recommendation here...

Buy an American English dictionary, and a British/Australian dictionary, and keep them to hand. Websters Riverside is a good American English reference; the Maquarrie dictionary is the best Australian English reference, and for UK English, get the Oxford. When you're copy editing, keep these on the desk, and when you're less than 100% certain of what you're doing ... check!

The rules for the different systems of spelling used in the States and Canada, the UK and Commonwealth countries (on a broad-spectrum level, with the caveat that there are scores of exceptions!) are these:

TIP: Know who you're writing for, and chose the spelling system accordingly. Never swap and change between systems inside the same document. Consistency is paramount. Remember to set your computer's spellchecker for which spelling environment you want for a specific job. Know the rules ... and know the exceptions!

Stay with us, while I plow our way through the Copy Editing 101 series of posts; we have some useful tips for picking up all kinds of errors.

Turn page to Grammatical errors...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for some great tips. I think, we should not only correct spelling errors but also Grammatical and others fetchers and that's why we can go to online proofreading .


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