Word Wednesday: Whoa! Woe to Those Misspelling “Whoa”

Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

On Wednesdays we will identify an unusual word, provide its definition, and discuss its application or its impact.

Lately it seems everywhere I turn people are misspelling the word “whoa.” I’ve seen “woah” and even “whoah”. Did no one ever read “Little House on the Prairie” and learn to spell this word properly?

WhoaWoetoThoseMisspellingWhoaI have two ways to help you remember the proper spelling of this word. First, “whoa” comes from the Middle English word “ho” (as in the exclamation, not the farming implement or the abbreviation for, um, another word.) If you can remember “ho” you will recall that the “h” comes before the “o.”

Another mnemonic device is to recall that “whoa” is used to express surprise, for example, “Whoa, what is that?” So “whoa” might precede a question, like any of the 5 W’s, so the “wh” comes together.

So in case you aren’t commanding horses to “stop” (four letters, just like “whoa”), perhaps you have a moment to also consider the word “woe.”

Woe merely refers to great sorrow or distress or the things that cause such feelings.

And together, for anyone wondering, “whoa” and “woe” are homonyms, or more specifically, homophones, two words that sound alike but which have different meanings and possibly different spellings.


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