Top 3 spelling errors

As you can imagine, during my 20+ years working as a copy editor and proofreader, I’ve come across a lot of typos and spelling errors. Here are a few of the most common mistakes and some tips on how to avoid them:

“It’s” vs. “its.” This one can be confusing, not to mention challenging to remember, because we’re so used to using an apostrophe to indicate the possessive. In this case, “it’s” is the contraction of “it is” and “its” is the possessive. So when you’re reviewing your copy, ask yourself if you mean “it is” or the possessive. Examples: It’s too bad she wasn’t able to come out tonight. The tree was at least 10 years old, and this was the first time its leaves had fallen in October.

Using “weary” when you mean “wary.” Believe it or not, I’ve seen this one a number of times. “Weary” (tired) being used when the writer means “wary” (cautious, suspicious, on one’s guard). A good way to remember this is “wary” rhymes with “scary”—and both have similar spellings. Examples: They were weary from travelling, so they stopped for a coffee and a snack. They were wary of their luggage getting lost, so they arranged to take carry-on.

“Then” and “than.” “Then” refers to a specific time, or introduces something that happens next. “Than” introduces a second element in a comparison. Are you talking about when (which also rhymes with “then” and has similar spellings) something happened or are you comparing things? Examples: We stopped for a coffee then continued on our journey. This trip was a lot more fun than the last trip we took.

That’s all for now. As always, it’s good to have someone—preferably a professional proofreader or copy editor—check your work before you hit Send or Print on that document.

Happy writing!


Cathy (Cate) McKim is a storyteller with the soul of a cowbell—direct, succinct and whimsical. Through tight editing, powerful writing and a voice that keeps people listening, words with cowbell delivers words that captivate, engage and inspire. Cathy is also the creator and editor of one of Toronto’s most popular arts blogs, life with more cowbell. What can she do for you?

Quote of the week: Week of July 29, 2019

Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.—Patti Smith

Quote of the week: Week of July 22, 2019

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.—Steve Jobs


Inspirational quotes at Artscape Youngplace, in the hallway near the Smart Cookie Club (Rooms 108-109), are posted and changed up every few weeks by Concierge Sonia Gandham. With thanks to Kate Carter, Communications & Promotional Assistant, for the info.

Quote of the week: Week of June 24, 2019

Human rights will be a powerful force for the transformation of reality when they are not simply understood as externally defined norms of behavior but are lived as the spontaneous manifestation of internalized values.—Daisaku Ikeda

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Quote of the week: Week of June 10, 2019

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.—Johnny Cash