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Grammar Groupie Mini-Lesson: Worms in Your Mouth

To be perfect would be interesting; to confess perfection would be really lame. – Grammar Groupie

Now that you’ve learned all about beta readers, let me address an issue one of my beta readers brought to my attention. Indeed, this was something the Grammar Groupie used incorrectly in her own manuscript. Eh, it happens to the best of us. So, what was my great mistake? Wait for it . . . wait for it . . . are you waiting with baited breath?

I sure hope not.

Unless creepy crawlies are a regular part of your respiratory system, you shouldn’t ever have baited breath. The correct spelling of the phrase is bated breath. But don’t beat yourself up if you’ve made this mistake. It’s becoming more and more acceptable to see baited breath in formal writing. But that doesn’t mean it’s correct.

The problems are twofold:

One, bated is a homophone of baited and homophones are notorious for the confusion they create.

Two, bated breath is an idiom and the only common phrase in which we use the word bated.

Bated is a contraction of abated, which means to reduce in degree or intensity, according to our friends at Merriam-Webster. So, abated breath, or bated breath, refers to a state in which one’s breathing is lessened due to strong emotion, such as expectation or fright.

Thanks to Kaitlin, for making me fish around for the proper usage.
Kristin Halbrook

Kristin Halbrook is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novels Nobody But Us (HarperTeen, 2013) and Every Last Promise (HarperTeen, 2015). She likes many things.

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  1. I'm glad I was right and not insane ;)
    p.s. thanks for the creepy picture of worms! Glad I'm not scared of them.

  2. I'm pretty sure hedgehogs eat worms, thank goodness

  3. LOL worms...eww. Great post, Kristin. Another great reason to have betas. I remember reading the sentence and didn't even think about it being the incorrect usage.

  4. Good one! And nice picture, now I'm going to be singing "Nobody likes me" all day...


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Item Reviewed: Grammar Groupie Mini-Lesson: Worms in Your Mouth Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Halbrook