Watch Out for Homophones

5a51d461Misspellings in general are always to be avoided, but homophones (aka homonyms) are particularly tricky, because Word and other word processing programs won’t catch them. You’ve used a correct English word—it’s just that you’ve used the wrong one.

1)There—they’re—their

There is a place, as in over there. It may be helpful to remember that if you lop off the initial t, the remaining word, here, is also a place.

They’re is a contraction. It’s short for they are. Try substituting the words they are in your sentence and see if it fits. They are going to the beach, instead of they’re going to the beach.

Their is a possessive. You use it to describe something that belongs to more than one person. Their house. Their money. Their problem.

2) Your—You’re

Like the tattooed tough in the photo, if you get this one wrong, people will tend to disregard your words.

Your is a possessive. Your writing. Your mistake. Your winning lottery ticket.

You’re is a contraction. If you can substitute the words you are instead, you’re is the correct form.

You’re really getting the hang of this. You’re next. You’re welcome.

3) It’s—Its

Okay, this one is a little unfair. If it followed the rules, we’d use an apostrophe for both forms. But in this case, as in so many others, it’s an exception. And even if it makes no sense, you’re still expected to get it right.

It’s is a contraction—NOT a possessive. If you can substitute it is, then it’s is the correct choice.

It’s the real thing. It’s not a big deal. It’s never going to work.

Its is the possessive, and it’s (see what I did there) only used for objects or animals, when you haven’t given the sex (in which case it would be his or her).

The pigeon fluttered its wings. He slammed the phone down on its cradle. Winter brought its icy winds.

4) To–Too–Two

To is a preposition, used in phrases like to the store, to the stars, and a gift tag that might say, “To my husband.”

Too means the same as also. So if you can substitute the word also, too is the correct choice.

I want to go, too. Me, too.

It’s also used in phrases like too much, too little, and too intense.

Two is simply the number between one and three. Most people get this one right.

These words in particular, if you misuse them, people will tend to dismiss what you say. There are many others, but there are two more I’d like to bring to your attention.

5) Bare—Bear

Apart from denoting a hairy mammal, bear is also a verb, roughly synonymous with carry.

So you might say this sorrow is more than you can bear.

Bare is to convey, uh, skin without clothing most often, but also used in the phrase ‘bare your soul.’

6) Peek–Peak

A peek is a quick look. A peak is a mountaintop.

The reason I mention it is the so often misused ‘Sneak Peak.’ This would be a mountain sneaking up on someone, which might make an interesting story, but if you’re going to use it as a quick look, usually into a future attraction, please remember the correct phrase is ‘Sneak Peek.’

If you get these correct, people will be more likely to give weight to what you say, or at the very least, not immediately discard your words.

Happy writing!

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Avid writer and reader, especially of fantasy. Learning about social networking and always interested in honing my writing skills. Contact me at cathleentownsend.com.

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2 comments on “Watch Out for Homophones
  1. Another word sometimes confused with peak and peek – pique.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, I hadn’t thought of that one, but you’re right. If I had thought of it, I would’ve figured that anyone who knew it would know better, since it’s not as common a word. But assumptions are normally unwise. Thanks, Marian. 🙂

      Like

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