Easily Confused Words

By James A. Ruth on March 18, 2019

Easily confused words.

Once you have spent hundreds of hours, days, and months writing a short story or a novel, you end up at a point where you feel satisfied with your work and your next step is to start reading for the purpose of fine tuning everything. The problem that sometimes occurs, is that since you know the story one-hundred percent, while your eyes read the words, your brain already knows the story and is one step ahead. It therefore misses some of the mistakes that might be more evident to a first time reader. We also rely heavily on software programs to identify needed corrections.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of words that are easily confused. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and, or words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant. It can only judge the words on the page. If you use words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway. Similarly, auto correct on mobile phones could easily suggest one word instead of another if they both start with the same letters.

I have to keep watch on the spelling of one pair of words I keep overlooking in my suspense/mystery writing. Staring versus starring. Stared versus starred.

I was watching a film the other night, and it hit home. The film was “A Star is Born’ starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. From a media perspective, they were each considered to be the “Star” of the show, and I was focused staring at them on screen, as they stared at each-other.

Staring is a gerund form of the verb stare. It means looking at something or someone for a very long time. How Long? So long that you’re sure to be noticed by who or what you’re looking at.

Starring is a gerund form of the verb star. Starring is another way if listing cast member credits in a theatre or film production. Typically, people starring in a film are listed either in the opening, or closing of TV, film, or live theatre, in a printed program or magazine handed out to the audience.

My constant dilemma is that when I write a line like, “He starred at the blood flowing out of his ex-wife’s body on the floor, congealing on the carpet. Her eyes were wide open, seeming to look out the bedroom window, starring up at the starry night sky.” None of the mistakes show up, as spell-check can find no errors.

That’s why we need people to read our writing, not to criticize, but to highlight those errors we overlook. That’s just one of the many reasons why we need to share our work with others who understand and can relate to all out challenges, large and small.