Minute Minuet

I was reading some amateur fiction the other day. It doesn’t matter which specific story it was or where I was reading it, though. I’ve seen this error show up with increasing frequency. Note that I’m referring to amateur fiction that has not been professionally edited. I would be horrified if a professional editor let this error through. This error has made my pet peeves list as a result of at least one author systematically getting it wrong.

So what is this error? Put plainly, it is writing “minuet” instead of “minute”. We all know that a minute is a unit of time consisting of sixty seconds and that there are sixty of them in an hour. It is also used figuratively to refer to a relatively short period of time. On the other hand, a minuet is a ballroom dance. The two really are not interchangeable, though if you squint at things correctly, you could make “I’ll be with you in a couple of minuets” make sense. However, unless the context is dancing, writing “minuet” is almost certainly wrong.

I do have to admit that writing “minuet” instead of “minute” is easy enough to do. The difference is a simple transposition of the last two letters. I could easily put this down to a simple typo if it occurs once. However, when it occurs systematically in a particular text, I have no choice but to conclude that the author is doing it intentionally and, thus, has no idea that they are making an error. I do wonder if this isn’t due to some idiotic preference for the much more rare “minuet” over the common “minute” in the autocompletion gimmick in some device or other.

In this case, “minuet” isn’t even pronounced the same as “minute” so it’s particularly jarring. I’m not going to confuse you with IPA representations of the words since I never could get my head around all the IPA symbols. However, “minuet” is pronounced something like “min-you-ette” while “minute” goes something like “min-utt” or “min-it” depending on your local dialect and/or accent.

Because “minuet” is a valid word, a spell checker will not catch it. Basic grammar checkers won’t either since both are nouns. This is the sort of thing that only actual proofreading will catch. If you are one that often writes “minuet” instead of “minute” (and don’t assume you aren’t – you could be doing it without realizing it), make sure you look specifically for this sort of error when proofreading. And if you don’t proofread, start doing so.


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