Recently, at the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) conference, I asked a group to name one positive thing they could think of about the Gulf of Mexico that would make a good story. I wasn’t surprised when fishing came up as a top answer. The Gulf is home to more than 2 million anglers who can catch more than 100 species of fish. Fishing is also a popular topic on our social media channels. But as a writer, there is one thing that bothers me, and that is when people get a fish name wrong. Here are a few of the worst offenders, in my opinion.
To capitalize or not:
Well, that just depends on who you are writing for. If you are writing for anything not research related, I like to follow AP Style, which lowercases everything except for proper nouns (king mackerel vs. Spanish mackerel, for example). If you are a research writer, please, feel free to capitalize and even add the scientific name.
Vermilion or vermillion snapper:
Yes. The word “million” has two L’s in it, but vermilion? It does not. This vibrant red is a great descriptor for the vermilion snapper, also known as beeliners colloquially. And though red snappers are also, well, red, they are not the same fish.
Gray or grey snapper:
As a fan of English literature, I often get words that are spelled one way in the state and another in the United Kingdom mixed up. Think theater vs. theatre. So it took me quite sometime to realize that grey is the British spelling. How do I remember this? Easy. Gray has an A in it and that is what is used in America. Grey, with it’s e, is what is used in England.
Since we are on the subject of talking fish, which is plural, fish or fishes?
Again. That somewhat depends. If you are talking about 50 of the same species, then fish is more accurate. If you are referring to different species, then fish OR fishes, though fish is still more common.
What are some of your favorite Gulf of Mexico fish misspellings?