Tips from the Editor- Miss Spellings and Miss Used Words Part 1

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By Kelly Laycock

Let’s begin with this tasty morsel by Margo Roark [1]:

Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques for my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it to say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It’s rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
Eye am shore your pleased two no
It’s letter perfect awl the weigh
My checker tolled me sew.

How do I organise a post about a topic as big as misspellings and misused words in English without crippling myself with doubt about misusing a word in it? I could try to be pithy and write an entire post in the format of the poem above and see if my readers could decipher it. But that sounds like a lot more effort than I want to expend, and a lot more creative than I feel. Still, the mass confusion continues, so I thought it might be fun to add my voice to this comedy of errors.

In every grammar reference book and website I’ve consulted, there are lists and lists of words that are “commonly misused” for various reasons. Most of these materials lay out long alphabetical lists that you can search, much like a dictionary, but I find that method unhelpful unless you know exactly which word you are looking up. I know from experience that I will never internalize all the correct spellings and uses of the million or so words that exist in the English language [2], so what I need are categories of words to watch for. And once again I lean on my Bible, Amy Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook.

In the chapter “Spelling and Hyphenation”, she calls attention to the gaps left by spellcheckers:

…spellcheckers do not distinguish between homophones (principal and principle), do not account for spellings determined by usage (resume and résumé), and may allow variant spellings (catalog and catalogue) in the same document. And, of course, spellcheckers do not highlight a misspelled word if the misspelling is itself a word (from and form).

From this quote, I’ve collected a number of great categories to start with: homophones, variant spellings, and misused words and phrases. To this list, I will add redundancies, which continually plague our otherwise concise writing. Considering the amount of material I had to choose from, I’ve split this topic into two posts, Homophones and Variants in Part 1, and Misused Words and Phrases along with Redundancies in Part 2. Enjoy!

Part 1

1. Homophones (and other similar-sounding words)

In case we’ve forgotten, homophones are words that sound the same but differ in meaning (caret, carrot, karat). A subcategory of homophones are homonyms, words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but that have different meanings (rose, the flower, and rose, the past tense of rise). All homonyms are homophones, but not all homophones are homonyms. I’ve added a few words that aren’t exactly homophones, but are similar enough to cause confusion.

accept (v), except (prep) Except for part two, I accept the terms of the agreement.
adverse (adj), averse (adj) Because he enjoyed a challenge, he was not averse to the adverse conditions he was facing.
advice (n), advise (v) She tried to advise her client, but her advice fell on deaf ears.
affect (v), effect (n or v) The advice affected her client, but the effect was not what she had predicted. The protesters were trying to effect a change to the policy.
allude (v), elude (v) The lawyer alluded to a previous witness’s testimony without directly naming the witness. The drug dealer eluded the police vehicle by turning down a back alley.
ascent (n), assent (n or v) The royal assent was given to the new legislation. His ascent up the corporate ladder was not without personal sacrifice.
assure (v), ensure (v), insure (v) The counsellor assured his client that she would have time to ensure that her property was insured before the hearing.
cite (v), sight (n), site (n) Lawyers must learn to cite their sources correctly. He caught sight of the historical site from the bus window.
compliment (n or v), complement (n or v) She gave her mother a compliment on her new hairstyle. Her scarf complemented the colour of her suit.
council (councillor), counsel (counsellor) The council members gathered in the boardroom. She called her legal counsel to discuss the progress of her case.
dependant (n), dependent (adj) The woman’s dependants were all dependent on her single income.
elicit (v), illicit (adj) In the course of the trial, the lawyer elicited a confession of the illicit dealings of the accused.
farther (physical distance), further (time or quantity) He pushed his chair farther away from the table. She needed to do further research into the topic.
its (possessive pronoun), its (contraction of it is) It’s impressive to see how the chimpanzee takes care of its young.
principal (n), principle (n or adj) The principal’s principle rule of thumb was to follow the principle of fairness.
wave (v), waive (v) The accused waved to his family as he entered the courtroom.
The accused waived her right to counsel when she refused to call a lawyer.

2. Variant Spellings

For Canadian spelling, we find ourselves caught between two superpowers: British English and American English. The Canadian Style recommends using the Gage Canadian Dictionary, which it says reflects most federal government departments and agencies, more so than the two big guns: Oxford (British) or Merriam-Websters (American). As Canadians, I feel we are certainly aware of this dichotomy, but that doesn’t mean we are any less confused by it! When in doubt, check your dictionary! Here is a sample of the big differences (British on the left, American on the right). Canadian spelling usually leans toward the British variants.

Nouns ce/se Nouns re/er Verbs single l/double ll
defence, defense
offence, offense
pretence, pretense
centre, center
metre, meter
theatre, theater
instil, instill
fulfil, fulfill
enrol, enroll
Nouns our/or Verbs ise/ize Past tense verbs double ll/single l
behaviour, behavior
colour, color
favour, favor
neighbour, neighbor
civilise, civilize
organise, organize
counselled, counseled
labelled, labeled
travelled, traveled

Other variants that have developed over time and are not considered wrong in any way. They represent preferences expressed by specific publishers or others, and many have developed into industry standard spellings, ultimately causing the others to be less used and appear more like relics. Here are a few examples from Einsohn [3] (I’ve put my own preferences on the left and italicized any that are considered industry standard):

afterward, backward, forward, toward
amid, among
afterwards, backwards, forwards, towards
amidst, amongst


*I prefer resume without the accents because I find they create a cluttered look if the word is used too frequently in a paragraph. Besides that, the context will always clarify the pronunciation between the noun and the verb of this homograph (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings or pronunciations), much like other pairs of this type.

After the interruption, she was ready to resume composing her resume.
The record label chose to record the band’s first album.
She was content to find the content of her manuscript unchanged.

In the next post, we’ll continue this theme and look at all those tricky misused words that we can’t keep straight. Stay tuned!



[1] The English Spelling Society, “Poems showing the absurdities of English spelling” online. Accessed June 20, 2014.
[2] Global Language Monitor
[3] Einsohn, Amy, The Copyeditor’s Handbook, 125

Criminal Sentencing with Rangefindr (Tip of the Week)

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By Alan Kilpatrick

The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library recently purchased an exciting new criminal sentencing resource called rangefindrRangefindr is designed to help lawyers and judges find criminal sentencing ranges in seconds instead of hours. Click on a few tags that describe the kinds of cases you’re looking for (like “Assault,” “First offender,” and “Emphasizes rehabilitation”) and rangefindr tells you what kind of sentences were imposed in those cases. One more click and you can review the judgments themselves.

You can access rangefindr from the Members’ Section of the Law Society website.


For example, let’s use rangefindr to identify the sentencing range of a young adult, with no prior record, convicted of dangerous driving.  Let’s select tags from the left side of the screen that describe our case.


Begin by selecting the criminal code offence, dangerous driving.





Next, indicate that the accused is a young adult.



Finally, indicate that the accused is a first offender with no prior record.


As we make our tags more specific, the number of cases that match our tags is indicated at the bottom of the screen.  Once we have entered all of the tags describing our case, select show me these cases.

Our search retrieved 35 cases.  The first search result displayed is 2014 ONCJ 119.  The sentence imposed was 1 year and 6 months probation.  A link to CanLII is provided on the right.


The second result is 2013 ABQB 414.  The total sentence imposed was two years.


If you have any questions about rangefindr, ask a Law Society Librarian. Library staff provide legal research assistance to members in person, on the telephone, or by e-mail.


Call 306-569-8020 in Regina
Toll-free 1-877-989-4999
Fax 306-569-0155

Amendments to The Legal Profession Act, 1990

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By Barbra Bailey

Amendments to The Legal Profession Act, 1990 will come into force on July 1, 2014. There are three primary categories of amendments:

  1. the hearing and investigation process;
  2. Bencher elections; and
  3. the mandate of the Law Society of Saskatchewan.

Those concepts are discussed further in the summary paper previously posted on the Law Society website on August 29, 2013. The Legal Profession Amendment Act, 2014, which contains the amendments, can be viewed at the Queen’s Printer’s website.

Complementary Rule amendments will also come into force July 1, 2014. Amended rules, as well as a “certified true copy of amendments” which summarizes the Rule amendments are available on the Law Society website.


From Sea to Sea (Throwback Thursday)

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CanadaDayGentlemen, we are here to create a Nation!” declared Sir John A. Macdonald to the Fathers of Confederation in 1866. On July 1 of the following year, the British North America Act, 1867 was enacted to unite the Province of Canada (which later became Ontario and Quebec) with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into the Dominion of Canada as a self-governing dominion of the British Empire.

Dominion Day did not become a statutory holiday until 1879. There were decades of contention on whether Dominion Day should be renamed. The debates centred on whether the word “dominion” suggested subservience and domination by the British or whether it was merely an extract from the Latin version of the eight verse of Psalm 72 “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” After all, A Mari Usque Ad Mare is part of Canada’s coat of arms. With the passing of the Constitution Act in 1982, Canada became an independent nation. The same year Dominion Day was officially renamed Canada Day. One attempt to amend the Canada Day Bill was defeated 44 to 23 with two abstentions. The Bill was given Royal Assent on October 27, 1982, thus ending a long dispute on what this national holiday should be called.

On July 1 this year we celebrate Canada’s 147th anniversary. So what other significant historical events happened on this day across the country in the past 147 years?

1867 – John Alexander Macdonald is sworn in as Canada’s first Prime Minister. The new Dominion starts with just 30 civil servants.

1868 – Department of Marine and Fisheries is founded in Ottawa.

1870 – George-Etienne Cartier (1814–1873) passes Order-in-Council committing government to start building a railway to the Pacific within two years, as condition of BC’s entry into Confederation; after false starts and consolidations, construction eventually starts May 1881.

1871 – 1) Founding of the Parliamentary Library in Ottawa; 2) Parliament makes decimal currency system uniform across Canada; 3) British Columbia joins Confederation as the sixth Canadian province.

1873 – Prince Edward Island enters Confederation as the seventh Canadian province on the same terms as BC.

1878 – Canada joins the Universal Postal Union.

1890 – Canada and Bermuda are linked by telegraph cable.

1909 – Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, captain of the government steamship Arctic, places a metal plaque at Parry Rock claiming Canadian sovereignty over the entire Arctic Archipelago. “I took possession of Baffin Island for Canada in the presence of several Eskimo,” said Bernier, “and after firing nineteen shots I instructed an Eskimo to fire the twentieth, telling him that he was now a Canadian.”

1911 – Proclamation removes the words Dei Gratia, Latin for “By the Grace of God”, from Canada’s coinage. There is a public uproar over the “godless” coins.

1915 – Saskatchewan passes legislation to close all bars, clubs, and wholesale outlets selling liquor, replaced by 23 government liquor stores.

1916 – 1) World War I, the first day of the Battle of the Somme – the First Newfoundland Regiment is virtually wiped out at Beaumont Hamel. Of the 801 soldiers of the Regiment, 255 are killed, 386 are wounded and 91 go missing. 2) Prohibition begins in Alberta.

1926 – Canada restores the gold standard.

1927 – Toronto, Ontario – Law is passed requiring all drivers in Ontario to have a license.

1925 – Regina, Saskatchewan –  City police and RCMP wade into crowds at Regina Exhibition Grounds rally to arrest leaders of the On-to-Ottawa Trek after they return from unsuccessful meeting with Prime Minister Bennett in Ottawa. One policeman is killed and many are injured. On-to-Ottawa Trek was a journey where thousands of unemployed men protesting the dismal condition in federal relief camps scattered in remote areas across Western Canada.  The men lived and worked for 20 cents a day.

1941Unemployment Insurance Act comes into force; establishment of Unemployment Insurance Commission.

1942 – World War II, Wartime sugar rationing starts in Canada. Tea and coffee are added to the list in August, butter is added in December and meat the following March.

1960 – Treaty and registered Aboriginal Canadians are given the right to vote.

1962 – Saskatchewan – 90% of doctors of the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons close their offices for 23 days, providing only hospital-based emergency services. Tommy Douglas’s CCF government Medicare compulsory medical care insurance plan is delayed.

1966 – Toronto, Ontario–CTV station CFTO-TV transmits first colour television in Canada.

1968 – Canada’s Medical Care Act comes into effect, creating the nation’s Medicare system.

1980 – Ottawa, Ontario – Calixa Lavallée’s “O Canada” officially proclaimed as the national anthem of Canada; written in 1880 for St-Jean-Baptiste celebration; original words by A-B Routhier; English by Stanley Weir (1908).


Happy Canada Day!




Today in Canadian History

A Different Kind of Spam Filter?

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld

To congratulate 15 years of exceptional service with the Law Society, we gifted our Web/SaaS/Databases Administrator, Kelly Chiu with this spam filter. Not only is Spam her favorite food, but she is keenly interested in the new Anti-Spam Legislation that comes into force on July 1, 2014. Thank you Kelly! You are the glue that holds us together.spam1cropped

Copyright Law Basics (3) – User Rights and Fair Dealing

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By Alan Kilpatrick

Copyright is a hot topic in Canada. Discussions on copyright often lead to contention and controversy. A basic understanding of copyright can help ensure fair and equitable access to law, justice, and information. Over the past several weeks, we have explored copyright balance and copyright owner rights. This week, we are going to discuss an important user right.

As with copyright owners, copyright users are also granted a variety of rights under the Copyright Act. The most important user right to know about is called fair dealing.

Fair dealing is the right, when fair and reasonable, to copy a substantial portion of a copyrighted work without permission from, or payment to, the copyright owner. Fair dealing is briefly expressed in section 29, 29.1, and 29.2 of the Act.

Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, and news reporting does not infringe copyright.

At paragraph 48 of CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) described fair dealing as:

…an integral part of the Copyright Act…any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not be an infringement of copyright.

Fair dealing is an exception to copyright infringement. It is also crucial to maintaining proper copyright balance between owner rights and user rights. At paragraph 48 the SCC goes on to say:

The fair dealing exception…is a user’s right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users’ interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively.

To maintain balance, we can think of user rights as a limit on owner rights. The Copyright Act does not define exactly what fair dealing is or the amount of copying considered fair. To help copyright users assess whether their copying falls within the fair dealing exception, the SCC established a fair dealing test involving six criteria at paragraph 60 of the same judgment:

…the purpose of the dealing, the character of the dealing, the amount of the dealing, the nature of the work, available alternatives to the dealing and the effect of the dealing on the work are all factors that could help determine whether or not a dealing is fair. These factors may be more or less relevant to assessing the fairness of a dealing…In some contexts, there may be factors other than those listed here that may help a court decide whether the dealing was fair.

Next time, we will explore these six criteria: purpose, character, amount, alternatives, nature, and effect. The Canadian Association of University Teachers has published an excellent description of the fair dealing test here.

The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has excellent copyright law resources from leading copyright lawyers and scholars:

  • The 2014 Annotated Copyright Act / Tamaro, Normand
  • Canadian Copyright : A citizen’s guide / Murray, Laura Jane & Samuel Trosow
  • The Copyright Pentalogy : How the Supreme Court of Canada shook the foundations of Canadian copyright law / Geist, Michael
  • From “radical extremism” to “balanced copyright” : Canadian copyright and the digital agenda / Geist, Michael
  • Hughes on Copyright and Industrial Design / Hughes, Roger T
  • Intellectual Property Law : Copyright, patents, trade-marks / Vaver, David

If you have any questions about copyright resources, ask a Law Society Librarian. Library staff provide legal research assistance to members in person, on the telephone, or by email.


Call 306-569-8020 in Regina
Toll-free 1-877-989-4999
Fax 306-569-0155