One night when my good friends, Larry and Myra Karp, came to dinner, Larry asked me, “How do you spell kidnapped?” I replied, “k-i-d-n-a-p-p-e-d.”
He explained the reason for his question. He had been proof-reading galleys of his next book, King of Ragtime, and the spell-check system on his Word Perfect software had highlighted kidnapped. It gave the correct spelling as kidnaped. That looked wrong to Larry so he did what any good writer would do. He got out his Webster’s Dictionary and looked it up. To his surprise, it said that both versions are correct but the preferred spelling is kidnaped. One P. He changed the spelling throughout his book, but it continued to bother him.
We decided to see what happened with Word, which I used on my computer. I typed in kidnapped, ran the spell check, and it was okay. When I wrote kidnaped, the spell check said it was incorrect. Next we got out my Webster’s Dictionary. In my edition, both versions are correct but the preferred spelling is kidnapped.
Larry and I also looked up Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic book which, as we both thought, is Kidnapped, with two Ps. We found many other books with kidnapped in the title and none were spelled with only one P.
This incident made me realize once again how difficult it can be for a writer to get the details right. Larry and I care deeply about using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In this case, his sources disagreed with mine. While kidnapped and kidnaped are both correct spellings, kidnapped is more commonly used. It would be my preference because if I came to the word kidnaped in a book, it would stop me. I would think about the spelling, rather than the story. Larry agreed and changed every kidnaped in his book back to kidnapped.