Tuesday, July 31, 2012
"Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to spell."
As the evil villain (as opposed to the good villain) stroked his evil cat, he said with an evil smile: “So, Mr. Bond, it is very simple. All you have to do to save the world is … (dramatic music) … spell the word parallel!” MWA HA HA HA! (That’s an evil laugh.)
Well, if I were playing the character of Mr. Bond, the world would have ended in a tragic misspelling accident.
The lesson? Know your weaknesses and know how to address them.
There are some words and grammar issues that we’ll always have to look up in a dictionary or stylebook. There are many words I just can’t spell on my own – parallel top among them. As for grammar, lie vs. lay gets me every time; that page in my AP Stylebook is well worn.
You don’t have to be a great speller or grammarian to be a good writer. But you do need to know how to correct or deal with your flaws. What do you need to have at your side?
- A dictionary: Webster’s New World College Dictionary for you Associated Press Style advocates and Merriam Webster for you Chicago Manual of Style people.
- A stylebook: The AP Stylebook is my first choice because I have a journalistic background. The Chicago Manual of Style is probably the most popular and covers a much wider range of writing genres.
- An atlas: needed for geographical names
- A calculator: Writers and editors are notorious for being horrible at math.
There are other items that can help, but the four I mentioned will prevent a lot of mistakes from happening – as long as you use them. They might even stop an evil genius or two.