Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are you as stupid as I am?

Sheila M. Clark, my hawk-eyed editor, noticed that I had used the word "illicit" instead of "elicit" in a new book about publishing mistakes we're working on. Some of my books share material, so I checked and found the error in three books. It was also on one of my websites and on this blog.

As a renowned and committed nitpicker, I am deeply embarrassed by this horrible senior moment (a.k.a. "brain fart").

On the other hand, I am greatly disappointed that none of you folks caught the error. It would have been a great opportunity to dump on me for being a damn hypocrite.

There are lessons for all writers and publishers in this, of course:
  1. A spell-checker won't let you know if you have used the wrong word, but spelled it properly.
  2. Heterographs and homophones are dangerous. 
  3. All writers need editors. Even editors who write need other editors.
  4. The English language is a minefield.
  5. Nobody is perfect -- even nitpickers like me.
Will this recent failure mean that I'll become mellow, tolerant, compassionate and understanding? Will I stop complaining about other people's fuckups?

Naah! No way! To err is human. It can also be funny. So, be careful. 


  1. What's really embarrassing is having a grammatical error in a comment pointing out someone else's mistake. Yeah, I did that!

  2. LOVE this post! I'm an editor who is working on a novella and I was *just* saying to a friend that, when I'm ready, I'll be hiring an editor. Couldn't agree with you more--editors are critical and necessary components of the writing, editing, and publishing processes. Now, carry on finding fuck-ups. Likely in this comment.

  3. Happens all of us, Michael. I try to use triggers or associations. It helps me remember the right word. Ilicit - the "I" for something illegal. Elicit - the "E" for evocation or response. Most words used in this manner, beginning E, are verbs - an action/doing thing. Ilicit - think of it as a pointing word, an adjective, a word describing something. Look, that's ilicit.

    I hate using effect and affect, because I always have to check. There's some crazy grammar rules depending on the subject of the sentence when you convince yourself you are using the right word *wrongly*!