Thursday, April 13, 2017

Another Common Writing Mistake You're Probably Making Right Now - Decor Bloggers Take Note

Another common writing mistake you're making right now! Decor bloggers, take note - your fireplace isn't wearing a mantle.

A few weeks back, I wrote about one common writing mistake you might unknowingly be making right now. That post involved it's vs its. You might want to check it out and see if you are on the right side of that writing rule.

In this second post, I take a look at another common error I see in writing all the time. One of my pastimes is decorating. I enjoy decorating our home and sharing diys here on the blog. I also love to look at design magazines, websites and other blogs that feature decor inspiration.

My husband made a gorgeous diy mantel for our fireplace just before Christmas. I was pretty excited about it, and, like many bloggers, I started decorating our mantel for every season. And I started paying more attention to other decor bloggers' fireplace updates. That's when I noticed just how many people don't spell mantel correctly. Even some of the most experienced decor bloggers are making this error in word usage.

Your fireplace isn't wearing a mantle

To be fair, this mistake is made so frequently that nobody can be blamed for thinking mantle refers to the shelf above your fireplace. Let me illustrate this with a story. Back when we were considering buying a mantel rather than making one, I spoke to a friend who installs fireplaces. He pointed me to a supplier's website so I could see which model of mantel I liked best.

I was astonished to see that the mantels section of the supplier's website was called "mantles." I mentioned it to my friend, who explained to me that the supplier chose to spell it wrong on purpose because he discovered that the majority of people Google "mantle" rather than "mantel." We should really turn that around though, don't you think? Call me old-fashioned, but I like to spell words correctly when possible.

Definitions of mantel and mantle

According to the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary, these are the definitions for mantle and mantel:

mantle (noun):

1. A loose sleeveless cloak or shawl, worn especially by women.

   1.1 A covering of a specified sort.

   1.2 Ornithology - A bird's back, scapulars and wing coverts, especially when of a distinctive colour.

   1.3 Zoology - (in molluscs, cirripedes and brachiopods) a fold of skin enclosing the viscera and    secreting the shell.

2. An important role or responsibility that passes from one person to another.

3. A mesh cover fixed round a gas jet to give an incandescent light when heated.

4. Geology - The region of the earth's interior between the crust and the core, believed to consist of hot, dense silicate rocks.
   4.1 The part of another planetary body corresponding to the earth's mantle, ex. ‘the lunar mantle’

mantel (noun):

With all of the meanings that apply to mantle, a mantel is just one thing - the decorative part of a fireplace. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a "mantelpiece" or "mantelshelf." Not especially helpful as definitions go. Merriam-Webster expands on this, saying a mantel is:

1a : a beam, stone, or arch serving as a lintel to support the masonry above a fireplace
1b : the finish around a fireplace
2: a shelf above a fireplace

In case you are wondering (as I was) what a lintel is, it's "a horizontal architectural member spanning and usually carrying the load above an opening."

Essentially a mantel is the shelf above your fireplace and the wood or other material that surrounds your fireplace. That's it. Nothing else.

Correct use of mantel vs. mantle

To be honest, you probably won't use the word mantle much in everyday life, unless you're a geologist, a bird watcher or somebody who imagines herself living in a period drama.

Mantel is what you want to write when you're talking about your fireplace. Mantle is for every other definition.

Remember this tip

Next time you go to write the word mantel (about your fireplace), simply picture that beautiful "e" surrounded by friends on either side. The "e" is kind of like your fireplace insert, while the "t" and the "l" are the legs of your mantel.

If you have been making this writing mistake, not to worry. There's a good chance hardly anybody noticed!


  1. As a former English teacher, I applaud your desire to "straighten out" our use of homophones. Good luck with the 100+ misused/misspelled words that sound like some other word(s) in our English language. And it is amazing how many people who think that they know better actually do not. Will you also write a post about the objective pronoun "me," as in "with Jim and me"? I hear literally everyone saying "with Jim and I." GrrrrrrršŸ˜©Where did English teachers go wrong? Linda@Wetcreek Blog

    1. 100+ huh? Maybe I'll tackle a few. ;) I'm sure I have lost track of some grammatical rules myself so I'll stick to obvious ones. How wonderful to be an English teacher - the rules are reinforced for you when you share them with others! Sometimes I still have to stop and think before I say "me" or "I"! I wouldn't blame English teachers - I'm sure it comes down to students not paying attention. :)

  2. Replies
    1. So common isn't it Shauna? Happy to help. ;) Thanks. :)

  3. Hi Joann,

    I am loving these posts about writing mistakes. There is always something very interesting and important to learn. I agree with Linda, how English teachers are coping with this?

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you Gabriela! I'm glad you're finding the posts useful! Being a teacher takes a lot of skills and patience...more patience than I have! ;)

  4. I never thought about it and I probably do mantle, but that would be an automatic kind of thing where I assume that it would be mantle here (Australia) but mantel elsewhere, just in terms of spelling. Like metre and meter-- we put the 'e' last!

    1. I think we use the same spelling in Canada as Australia, no? We use the British rather than the American. We write metre too, and add "u", like honour.

  5. When I make spelling errors I cringe inside. No matter how many times I proof read, I always find something wrong after I've sent my writing out.

    1. Totally understandable. Usually in a work scenario when we are producing written content we have colleagues who can proofread. And that's really the ideal isn't it? A fresh set of eyes on a written piece.

  6. As a fellow writer the improper use of "it's" bugs the heck out of me! Sigh. I guess proper grammar is going out of style.

    1. I think it is unfortunately. But we'll try to stick with it as much as possible. ;)