I came across the following error in a conversation I was editing this week. The spelling was correct and the sentence still made sense to the reader but because I’d seen this author misspell definite elsewhere in the manuscript, I queried her about which word she intended to use. She was adamant that the character was definitely (not defiantly) evasive.
“I asked her yesterday.”
“What did she say?”
“Well, she defiantly avoided answering the question, but I know she wanted to see him.”
This is a simple example of an issue that a spelling and grammar check programme will not pick up, and one that an Autocorrect function can often create, rather than prevent.
Definitely seems to be one of those words that many people have difficulty with, along with fortunately, furniture, signature, and many more.
A little trick that you may find useful is to associate the word that you find particularly troublesome with another word. It doesn’t really matter whether the association makes sense or not, if it helps you out, go ahead and use it. I think of the word definite as being something certain and measurable. Something that has limits, something that is f i n i t e .
You could also create an association for the word defiant. He defiantly stood his ground against the giant.
As you continue to write and revise your work, you will begin to realise which errors you tend to make regularly. We all have particular words that give us more trouble than others. My quirk is with the words of and or. For some reason my left index finger insists on hitting f instead of r on a regular basis—but strangely, only with these two-letter words.
I’m aware of my penchant for this mistake, so when self-editing I know that I should focus more on making sure I’ve used of/or properly, and less on whether I’ve used definitely/defiantly correctly. Being aware of your personal tendancy for certain mistakes is the first step towards correcting, and eventually preventing, future errors. Simple tricks like these are great to have on hand when trying to improve your writing, and with regular usage will soon become an almost automatic process that you don’t have to consciously think about.
Emma is a freelance editor and writer who got her start at Newbie Writers two years ago. In her previous career she was an accountant, but escaped the numbers game to envelop herself in the literary world.