Mistakes can be a good thing. They teach us what to avoid. The trick, though, is to learn by observing others make them.

With that goal in mind, here’s another roundup of misspellings, misunderstandings, and other misuses — all found via Internet search, but equally frequent in print:

“I just find it as ridiculous as any other hair-brained conspiracy theory.”

Whether hair-brained or hairbrained, it’s wrong. The correct word is harebrained — that is, the brain of a rabbit. It’s true that hare was once spelled hair, but that was 400 years ago. Don’t be harebrained; spell it correctly!

“I do have a photo of his name on the marquis of the theater where he gave his last performance.”

The canopy of a theater is a marquee (mar-KEE). A French nobleman is a marquis (mar-KEE or, in the anglicized pronunciation, MAR-qwis).

“The people who do not have money or marketable skills — the poor, the elderly, the frail, the uneducated — fall between the cracks with no place, no role, and no money to buy what they need.”

This is a commonly garbled metaphor. Something that is forgotten or overlooked falls into or through the cracks, not between them.

“This is unchartered territory for … presidential candidates, given the fact that the whole primary season starts … three days after New Year’s ….”

An organization that lacks a document outlining its principles and functions is unchartered. The word wanted here is uncharted.

“Juliana, I enjoy this new newsletter format so much better than the daily newsletter which I felt obliged to peruse quickly so as to have time to do research.”

The word peruse means to read carefully, and that takes time. It’s often misinterpreted, as in the above example, as meaning the opposite: to read rapidly, to scan to get the gist. Incidentally, it’s considered pretentious to use peruse when read will suffice.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.

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