Free Stuff | Word Wizard

Free Stuff: Tips & Advice


The first rule of professional publishing is never to trust your first draft! Don’t publish anything without getting a second person – and preferably a third person as well – to proofread your document. As well as spotting spelling errors, they may have an opinion about whether the document reads well.

If you can afford the time, leave your work for a few days and re-read it yourself. Any errors should be apparent. This can apply to even the shortest, simplest documents. In the moment, we sometimes ‘read’ what we expect or want to see, and become blind to mistakes. Putting some distance between yourself and your words can stop this from happening!

Typing Errors

It is easy to transpose characters when typing quickly, eg. ‘thier’ instead of their or ‘adn’ when you mean and. Take care not to write the wrong word by mistake because certain characters are close together on the QWERTY keyboard – i.e. don’t type ‘put’ when you meant to type out

  • Watch out for poor spacing – i.e. ‘hello, how a re you?’
  • Be careful not to add numerical characters by mistake – ‘Please d9n’t go there’


A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word, but has a different meaning, i.e. ‘carat’ and ‘carrot’. If you are not sure of a correct spelling, look it up in a dictionary (both printed and online dictionaries are useful).

One of the most common mistakes made is to use the wrong form of ‘their’.

  • There – The cup is over there.
  • Their – They’ve had their breakfast.

Another common mistake involves ‘too’, ‘to’ and ‘two’

  • Two – There were two cakes.
  • Too – That’s too difficult.
  • To – I’m going to school.


Some words can be spelt more than one way – they may be hyphenated, and could appear as one or two words. One example is ‘skin care’ which is sometimes expressed as ‘skincare’. Another example is ‘en suite’, which can also be spelt ‘en-suite’ or even ‘ensuite’.

You will probably have a preference for how to spell a variable word, but in publishing it is important to use the same form of a word every time. One thing you can do to help achieve consistency is to create something that is known as a style guide. Professional publications, such as newspapers, each have their own, very thorough guides, which detail the preferred spellings and grammatical rules to apply to all stories.

You can build your own style guide as you go along. Every time you come to question a word, consult your sources (ie. dictionary, thesaurus) and then write down the rule you wish to remember in a Word document or note pad/folder.


Numbers will often lead to inconsistency. Do you express percentages as 10% or 10 per cent or ten per cent? How will you write fractions? Do you find it easier to read numbers 1 to 10 as one to ten? Will you spell out £10m, £10 million or £10,000,000? Sometimes, the only way to work out your preference is to experiment. For example, writing ten million as £10,000,000 can become quite hard on the eye. If you were working with several sets of numbers, it becomes even more difficult to differentiate between the figures:

  • i.e. £1,000,000 and £10,000,000 and £100,000,000.

Whereas it is much easier to read the difference between them like this:

  • £1 million and £10 million and £100 million.


If you want to make a good impression with words, try to avoid using cliches. Cliches are turns of phrase which have been overused, such as ‘food to tantalise your tastebuds’. The most obvious place to spot a cliché is in advertisements. Next time you see or hear an advert which uses a phrase you have heard a million times, note it in your style guide as one to avoid.



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