Reigning in misused pears

Someone riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn carriage reins in the horse to control its direction. Elizabeth II reigns in the United Kingdom. So what does the following come-on for a marketing instruction program mean? “How to help reign in your online audience and 
keep them from doing price comparisons when 
considering your product or service.” Is the marketer supposed to control the audience like so many horses? Or be its monarch? Reign no longer means rule. I suspect someone put in the extra letter because it looks more impressive, or something. Rein and reign are not simply a … Continue reading

Two pees in a pot: students’ misused pears

The Internet is full of bad writing by people who ought to take more pride in their work. In this series of posts, I have enjoyed publishing the results of careless writers who choose the wrong word from a set of homonyms. Now I find that teachers also enjoy posting excerpts from their students’ tests and papers. Some of those kids have a lot more serious problems than simply choosing the right word! Here are a few beauties: We were as close as two pees in a pot. He urines to be accepted. Steinbeck always wrote with a porpoise. Sex … Continue reading

Summery or summary? More misused pears

Many years ago, one of my birthday presents was an enormous eraser–about the size of an index card, 3×5. On it was printed the boast, “I never make misteaks.” That’s hard for me to type; my spell checker auto-corrects. It’s embarrassing to find mistakes in my own writing (unless they’re intentional)–but sometimes great fun to catch someone else’s. English has lots of homonyms. For anyone who wasn’t paying attention during several years of school language classes, that means English has lots of pairs of words that sound the same but have different spellings. Inevitably some careless writer will choose the … Continue reading

Where your spell checker is no help: more misused pears

People search online for writing tips because they want to improve their writing. Perhaps you came to this post because you typed “writing tips” into a search engine. Maybe you want to clean mistakes out of your own writing. Maybe you teach writing and want something for your students. Actually, I love writing mistakes, provided that either someone else is guilty or that I get to do it deliberately to make a point. I have certainly enjoyed writing “misused pears” instead of “misused pairs” as part of the title of this series of occasional posts on writing. I suspect that … Continue reading

Pouring over a book and other misused pears

Some pears of words are so much alike that authors frequently choose the wrong one. Oh. That should be pairs, shouldn’t it? Pour/Pore A highly respected Bible teacher urged readers of a workbook to “pourover their Bibles” in order to find answers. Pouring over the Bible, or any other book, could make it impossible to read it until the mess is cleaned up. She doesn’t suggest just what students should pour over their Bibles, but almost any liquid would do irreparable damage. “Pour” means to make a fluid (liquid or granular solid) flow. Pour water into a glass or perhaps … Continue reading