Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Post In Which I Get Pedantic About Spelling

As the title suggests, I'm here to talk about spelling.  There are a few particular words that I see misspelled all the time, even among the work of my fellow English majors.  Never fear; a random fellow on the internet is here!

Through / Threw

Through is a preposition, as in "Superman can see through walls."   Threw is the past tense of throw, as in "Superman threw several criminals into space before he remembered that humans can't breathe there."  It's understandable how the mistake would be made, especially since the pronunciation of "ough" is the point at which the English language has a mental breakdown.

Wander / Wonder

To wander is to roam aimlessly, as in "Superman wandered through the ruins of a moon colony."  This is not the same as wonder, which, when used as a verb, means to ponder or consider.  For example, "Superman wondered what happened to those nuclear missiles he diverted into space."  I usually see people spell 'wander' with an 'o,' and rarely see this mistake the other way around.  This is reasonable, because the 'a' in wander makes a sound usually associated with 'o's.  Here's a simple story to help you remember which is which:  Superman destroyed the TV satellite, so I missed the end of the game.  I wonder who won?

Past / Passed

Passed is the past tense of the verb pass.  Example:  "Superman passed by a wig shop that was being robbed; he didn't stop to help."  The past is that point in time before the present and even farther before the future.  Example:  "Superman has an unpleasant past with bald people."   This is an easy mistake to make, due to the similarity in pronunciation and, often, meaning.  If the word you're looking for is a verb, it's probably passed, if it's an adjective or a noun, it's probably past.


  1. I'm not sure I've ever seen these misspelt. The one that really annoys me is "loose" for "lose". "Free reign" is kind of irksome, too.

    1. I've been doing a lot of creative writing work-shopping recently, and these have been turning up a lot. I didn't want to do the more prevalent ones like lose/loose or then/than because pretty much every blog with an emphasis on English has done that already.

  2. I've never seen these wrong either. I do see my British friends getting bought/brought interchanged all the time. If I see another "rediculous" on the internet my head my explode.

  3. The pair that bothers me is breath/breathe.