We have reached (almost) the last of this blog series on the top twenty grammar errors. Today’s grammar error number twenty-five deals with spelling. This is officially the last grammar error I will write on, but my last post in this series will cover links to online resources that you can utilize in your own editing.
Going forward, I’d suggest that at a minimum you should go through your manuscripts twenty-five times, using this blog series, or the resources I’ll post tomorrow, as a guide to your final edits.
Spelling in the English language is inherently difficult. The problem began when the Normans invaded the Saxons, mixing old German with French. The two languages are the reason why we have so many synonyms in the English language, which I always want to spell as cinnamons, because why the heck would we have two different letters for the same sound—the s and y in synonym in comparison to the c and i in cinnamon.
In the Fifteenth Century, the printing press was invented, and those sneaky printers were normally not English. They spelled a lot of words wrong. Sometimes because they didn’t speak the English language well and other times to make more money—they charged by the letter, so the more letters in a word, the larger their fee. You can imagine some of the “mistakes” such as silent e’s or spelling had as hadd or even worse, hadde. Many of these “mistakes” became accepted. Matters were not helped by The Great Vowel Shift—when English speakers shifted the way they sounded out their vowels, yet the printers continued printing spellings of the old pronunciations. Think about the words blue, shoe, flew, through, to, you, two, too, and gnu—they all have that same sound [yu:], but they are all spelled radically differently.
Still, a good dictionary by your side is incredibly helpful. The main two problem areas which English spelling writers run into today deal with homophones and the doubling rule. You can thank Samuel Johnson for the homophones and thank the shady printers for the doubling rule.
So, really, we’re back to spellcheck and a dictionary!