Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Homophones

What is a Homophone?

From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary: one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling. From me: not to be confused with homonym--a single word with more than one meaning, like right (direction) and right (correct).

Even with the multitude of resources listing commonly misused homophones, using the wrong one is still a major problem for many writers. Some of us nerdy grammar types know which one to use where, but sum due knot no witch won two use wear.

Do you have any idea how hard that sentence was for me to write??? I think I have a headache...

In that sentence alone, I used eight homophones.
some (part of a whole)-sum (total amount)
do (an action verb)-due (regarding payment)
not (negative or opposite word)-knot (a binding)
no (opposite of yes)-know (understand or comprehend)
which (a specific noun)-witch (Dorothy's nemesis)
one (a number)-won (prevailed or succeeded)
to (preposition or used with an infinitive)-two (a number)-too (also or in addition to)
where (location)-wear (put on a garment, jewelry, etc.)

I'm not saying I don't occasionally mistype a word. That happens. However, every writer needs to either learn/memorize the correct usage or keep a reference guide like Chicago Manual of Style on hand to check. Most of us have a pretty good idea whether we're terrible, competent, or well-versed in English/grammar. If you know it isn't your strong point, find a critique partner or beta reader with those skills. Spelling and grammar checks in your word processing software aren't 100% reliable. Both make mistakes, and a second or third pair of eyes can catch misused homophones.

A word of warning--Rather than always relying on your crit partner/beta reader/editor to find those errors, make an effort to learn the differences between the words. Having the mindset that someone else will correct it for you means you aren't growing as a writer. It also sends up red flags to contest judges, editors, and agents, leaving them to assume you're simply too lazy to be bothered with learning craft.

Now, on to a few more homophones!

there (location)-they're (they are contraction) - their (possessive pronoun)
bear (animal)-bare (without clothing or adornment)
seen (past tense of saw)-scene (image or act in a play, book, or movie)
doe (female deer)-dough (unbaked bread or cookies)
so (adverb)-sew (use needle and thread)
veil (face covering)-vale (valley)-vail (bow)
vain (egotistical)-vane (wind direction device)

I could on and on... I found a site with 70 homophones! Which ones give you problems???

Next week--Logic Lapses!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. Haha! I had problems reading that sentence myself! It's not a problem for me usually as I am a trained secretary (with too many years experience that I am not admitting to!) and I have had to make sure what I am typing is correct. But it does astonish me the amount of mistakes people make in posts/reviews on FB/Goodreads/Amazon or elsewhere - particularly when you consider these people are often readers. I know in some circumstances it is down to people having problems with dylexia, poor education, or relying too much on auto correcting. But I often say to myself, 'has this person actually checked it before they hit the return/publish key?' To add to your list I often see: right/write.

    1. Yes, Jen, I see a lot of posts and reviews with obvious mistakes. I can accept the occasional misspelling or typo, but the numbers astound me. Although a few missed words get through, I try to edit everything I write before I hit return/post/send.

      Another great example of a misused homophone!

      Thanks for stopping by!