Chicago Style Workout 58: Spell-Check Won’t Save You

But a Grammar Checker Might—and a Dictionary Always Will

If the first rule of copyediting is “Do no harm,” the second would be “When in doubt, look it up.” This month’s workout focuses on some commonly confused homophones and uncommon variant spellings that can slip by unnoticed if you let your focus lapse.

Most of these words will be ignored by the spelling and grammar checker in MS Word. And though Google Docs does a somewhat better job with its own context-sensitive checks, neither app can be counted on to warn you in every case. That’s what dictionaries—and editorial instincts—are for.

Some of the questions in this quiz feature words that are spelled correctly but aren’t the right word for the context. Others feature uncommon variant spellings that are best avoided. If you spot either one, choose the second answer. (Some of the questions are correct as is.)

Subscribers to The Chicago Manual of Style Online may click through to the linked sections of the Manual (cited in several of the answers). (For a 30-day free trial of CMOS Online, click here.)

Note: This quiz relies on the spellings in Merriam-Webster, but any up-to-date English-language dictionary should get you to the right answer (see CMOS 7.1).

Chicago Style Workout 58: Spell-Check Won’t Save You

1. Though they aren’t considered part of the cannon, these books are a blast to read.
2. The flier announced a series of concerts featuring local bands.
3. The space shuttle Endeavour was built as a replacement for Challenger.
4. The researcher poured over the rare folio with the help of a magnifying glass.
5. Compact discs went on sale about a decade after floppy disks first hit the market.
6. A cord of firewood is about four feet by four feet by eight feet when stacked.
7. The comedian did a passible imitation of Cary Grant.
8. The role wasn’t exactly glamourous, but I didn’t care.
9. The works were a heterogenous mix of genres, from thrillers to medical textbooks.
10. An egg is not an egg without catchup.


Top Image: Dictionary Focus, by Chris Dlugosz, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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2 thoughts on “Chicago Style Workout 58: Spell-Check Won’t Save You

  1. Noting that for heterogeneous, the difference is an e after the n, not “(with an e after the g).” Both heterogenous and heterogeneous have an e after the g.

    • You are right—and you get a star for pointing out our error, which we’ve now corrected. Thank you!

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