Writing Tips at GarySpeer.com

Tips for writers and musing about writing and life

Word games — we’re never too old to bolster our vocabulary, are we?

When I was in high school, I was flattered that one English teacher I had complimented me on my writing style. She said I was good at short, concise sentences that led to clearly written prose. Something like that. But what I remember most is that she compared my writing style to Ernest Hemingway. Now, I’m far from Ernest Hemingway in so many ways (no pun intended). But I appreciated her comments.

Which probably is why I’ve never focused on building an especially large vocabulary. I figure most of the truly great writing in the English language probably doesn’t use a huge vocabulary. I also figure most of the best-selling writing in English doesn’t focus on an extensive vocabulary.

But still, I really would like to whip my wife at Scrabble or at doing a crossword puzzle. Once in awhile. Okay, at least once.

I discovered just awhile ago that I read an ad for “chemises” and mistook the word for “chenille” in my mind. They sound similar, and what do I really know about women’s underwear or nightwear anyway? Very little, it seems. A few years ago, I was dubbed an honorary member of a fun online bunch who called themselves “housewife writers.” Along with that honor — of which I’m genuinely, fondly proud — came a symbolic virtual “chenille robe.” I knew enough to know chenille robes were those shaggy, fuzzy things that look warm and cozy.

Fast forward to about an hour ago. I was reading something at Amazon.com referring to “chemes” robes. Sounds similar to me, and my mind automatically related it to the tongue-in-cheek honorary chenille robe. Until I saw a picture of the chemise robe and baby doll set. Okay, so now I definitely realize they are different words and very different at that.

Somebody help me out here on this vocabulary rant. I know words which sound alike but have different spellings and meanings are homophones. But what are words that sound similar but have different spellings and meanings? Maybe we just call such words “misused” or “vocabulary errors”? Really ought to be a word for them, though, as well as warning labels maybe. Maybe I’ll ask my wife the proofreader. She’ll probably know. Anybody else?
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