One of the gnarliest issues for non-native speakers (NNS) who are writing in English is the correct use of homophones. (That is, words that sound alike, but which are spelled differently and have different meanings — like “weak” and “week,” or “rein” and “reign.”**) Spell check doesn’t pick them up because they’re not spelled wrong. And grammar check often doesn’t find them, either, because it’s mostly designed to find errors in subject-verb agreement, and the like.

Since I’m dealing with a thesis write right now (see what I mean?) written by an NNS, part of my task is homophone patrol, which I find wearying. There comes a point in my day when I think, “‘Boarder,’ ‘border,’ let’s call the whole thing off!” And I have to go have a little lie-down. Or a large drink.

Thus, you can imagine how thoroughly deee-lighted I was while reading the paper today at lunch time, off the clock as it were, to find this sentence in an AP article — written by a native-speaker, by the way — about the NY Times using “crowd sourcing” to deal with Sarah Palin’s recent email dump: “And they were released to many media outlets at the same time, meaning there was no reason to horde them in hopes of identifying an exclusive.” (No, we’re not going to get all frothy about the fact that the sentence begins with a conjunction. One ranty bit at a time, please.) Grrrrrrr.

I’d rant some more, but I have to get back to work now. Besos!

**One of my all-time favorites, also found in a well-respected news source: “Saddam Hussein’s rein of terror.” Giddyup!

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