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Column: A Word, Please: Spelling errors keep reining down — no, wait

If you’re in business, you know that a well-trained, dedicated staff is invaluable. Yet one businessman I read about recently is bent on determining their valuation anyway.

“As manager of the restaurant, Milton likes to keep the staff appraised.”

I’m not sure what a Sotheby’s appraiser would look at to attribute a dollar value to each employee, and I’m not sure I want to know. But if I were the boss, I would skip the market valuations altogether and keep them apprised instead.

Since I wrote here a few weeks ago about #SpellCheckCannotSaveYou, I’ve been experiencing a “when it rains, it pours” effect.


Examples of errors that spell check missed keep popping up on my radar, such as how “appraise,” which means to put a value on something, was used in place of “apprise,” which means to inform someone.

These errors are showing up in my editing work and also in my reading and my social media feeds.

Take this sentence from a press release tweeted by New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer: “The cocktail will be rimmed with a blend of exclusive Mexican-salts, and garnished with a fresh-cut lime and spiral-cut jalapeno, skewered by a mini beach umbrella, and complimented by rose pedals.”

“Exclusive Mexican-salts” is my favorite part. Whom do these salts exclude and are erroneous hyphens part of their strategy? But the meatier errors, the ones that prove spell-check doesn’t always have your back, are “complimented” and “pedals.”


When you’re adding a garnish or a decorative touch to something, you’re complementing it, not complimenting it. And a pedal is a foot-operated control on a vehicle. A rose has petals. And by the way, if you’re talking about someone who sells something, that person peddles.

Holiday names cause a lot of errors. A travel publication I edited recently was riddled with references to St. Patty’s Day. That should be St. Paddy’s Day.

Before that came Presidents Day. There are two correct ways to write this. You can skip the apostrophe, in essence treating Presidents as a kind of adjective. That’s the style followed by most news media. Or you can make it plural possessive, Presidents’ Day, which is more common in book editing.

The only way to screw it up would be to suggest that the day belongs to one man so self-involved he believes his importance in history is singular and unparalleled. That said, I’ll let you guess who took to Twitter recently to wish the country a happy “President’s Day.”

Back on the travel beat, I read about a Las Vegas tour operator that pampers high-roller guests, with services including “a uniformed chauffer who will serve you champagne in crystal flukes from a silver tray.”

Among the many things TV has taught me about Vegas: High-dollar gamblers are called “whales.” My guess is they would rather drink champagne from the glasses known as flutes than from the whale parts known as flukes.

By the way, every time I see “uniformed,” I stop mid-sentence to scrutinize each letter. I’ve learned the hard way how easy it is to accidentally call uniformed guards “uninformed guards.”

A few months back, a Daily Beast article noted that “Congressional leaders are often loathe to interject in each other’s jurisdictions.”


Setting aside the odd choice of “interject,” the error to note is “loathe.” With an E at the end, this is a verb meaning to hate. The word they wanted is “loath,” an adjective meaning reluctant or unwilling.

Even as I was writing this column I noticed a tweet from New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait, who wrote about a regulatory climate in which businesses have “free reign” to cheat and steal. The expression is “free rein,” a reference to letting a horse run free by loosening up on its reins. The spelling with a G means the rule of a monarch.

JUNE CASAGRANDE is the author of “The Best Punctuation Book, Period.” She can be reached at