Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are You Homonym-phobic? #Mancandy & Bear Traps

When I get a peek at a photo of a nearly naked
hottie, it usually piques my interest.  I may even
hum, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," thinking of a very
different kind of peak.  (Got dirty mind?)
English is full of bare bear traps to catch the unwary, and one of the ways a novel or blog post may bear bare an author's lack of English mastery, is misuse of homonyms.

Homonyms are those tricky words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.  Some are fairly easy to avoid - those tiny pests ruining your picnic and getting into the Cocoa Krispies are most likely ants, not aunts.  (Although I do like my picnics and Cocoa Krispies, and I am an aunt.)

Others I sea see all the time.  This is a website.  It may, in fact, be a terrible sight to see, but that's the risk you take on the interwebs.  On the other hand, if you like it, you may cite references from it, provided you give proper acknowledgement.

Spell-check alone will not help you with homonyms.  Spell-check is too easy when it comes to properly spelled words.  Easy like taking your drunken, slutty aunt to pick out a prom dress.  "That one's be-yoo-tiful.   Yes, your ladybits are hanging out, so what?   Oooh, I like that one, too.  No, not too lowcut; everybody likes a little nipple.  Let's score us mondo amounts of chocolate and scope out more mancandy for our Pinterest board."

Recently I read a (self-pubbed) book where, sadly, there was an indiscreet use of the word discretely, meaning individually, when the author meant discreetly, keeping it on the down low.   Simple transposition, could be a totally forgivable typo, except that by using it in several places, it was clear the author and her editor did not no know the difference.

Especially if you are planning to pedal peddle your own work via self-publishing, you need to appear as professional and polished as possible.  Don't assume a) if you don't know the difference, nobody else will, either, b) if someone does spot several of these, they'll be so enthralled by your brilliant writing they won't care, or c) your editor will catch it.  Paws Pause and take a few moments to review a list of homonyms.  Yule You'll know which ones give you trouble, and which don't.  Do a search in your document for the ones that you feel uncertain about, and make sure you are using these words correctly.   Oar Or you may turn some readers off entirely.

I will not say neigh nay, if you make a few mistakes, because I make a few myself, but anything that slaps the reader in the face and takes him/her out of the story is a bad idea.  If I'm in the middle of reading a hot sexy scene, I don't want to hear about the hero's mussels, okay?  (Even if he is a fisherman.)  If they're getting playful with food, I don't want to read that he dabbed chocolate moose on her noes.

Here's a fine example of muscles in the sea.

These are mussels from the sea.  See the difference?

Here's hoping this post incited you to gain a deeper insight as to the horror of homonyms. And that you await my next post with bated (not baited, see above, fisherman, yuck!) breath.

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Which homonyms drive you crazy when you "C" them?

P.S. - Coming on Monday - Karen Wojcnik Berner on Adventures in E-Publishing.