A few letters and whammo, change of meaning!

What keeps an author up nights worrying? Could it be independent publishers being swallowed whole by conglomerates? Industry forecasts saying midlist authors are as doomed as the dodo? How to make a sexy clinch sound fresh and original without straying into purple prose country?

Well, perhaps… but sometimes I worry about mistakes. No, not the ones I’ve caught, the ones that have slipped past and that I’m not even aware of. (Yes, I know… grammar mistake there.)

Mistakes are part of life and certainly part of writing. I’ve made my fair share. But over the years I’ve become more sensitive to them, especially the ones dealing with word use. I have my pet peeves. One of them is the misused word, like that poor, overworked and misused word ‘your’, as in, “Your going to love it,” or “Your sure of that?” Even sign makers can’t seem to get it into their heads that ‘your’ is a possessive word, as in ‘your dog’, ‘your house’. What they want in those two cases is ‘you’re’, a contraction of ‘you are’.

I’ve never made that mistake. But I’m sure I’ve made plenty of others. Some errors, mind you, are unintentionally humorous. My favorite recent example was when my local paper was reviewing the latest movie incarnation of James Bond, the actor Daniel Craig. They claimed he was ‘viral’. I think they meant ‘virile’, and didn’t intend, I’m sure, to imply that he was spreading any illnesses around.

But what brought this topic to mind is the book I am currently reading, a murder mystery. Pretty well written, intelligent, but one word use gave me pause. The protagonist is being interviewed by a police officer, when someone else enters the room and cast a ‘disinterested’ gaze over her. Now did the author really mean ‘disinterested’, as in ‘impartial’, or did they mean uninterested?

It stopped me dead, and that is not the result any author wants. However, in researching (yes, I am anal about stuff like this and so I spend far too much time on the internet) I came across this discussion, which is fascinating to me and proved that the author was actually correct enough, though perhaps not in common current usage. Oy.

So, that’s what keeps some anal, fretting authors awake at night.

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