Homophones: Its and It’s

its and it's

Homophones sound alike: its and it’s.

Homophones confuse some people and annoy others. I often see people online complaining about other people who can’t differentiate between the spellings of homophones like your and you’re; they’re, their, and there, and of course, its and it’s.

While I find these mistakes mildly annoying, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call them pet peeves, and I don’t feel any particular urge to vent or publicly complain about other people’s ability to spell (unless I’m discussing the quality of education in my country).

Just because the confusion of its and it’s makes me crinkle my nose a little does not mean that if I see this mistake I’m going to stop reading your blog or throw your novel into the recycling bin. It’s really not that big of a deal and is exactly the kind of typo that’s outweighed by good, strong writing. Read More

Homophones: Hear, Here

homophones hear here

How to remember the difference between homophones hear and here.

When I see professional signs or business documents with words spelled incorrectly, it’s like someone’s dragging nails down a chalkboard, which is something I don’t want to hear.

But I try not to get too riled up. I know that spelling isn’t easy for everyone. However, I do believe that with a little effort, anyone can learn the proper spelling of a word.

I also realize that homophones present a special challenge, because when two words sound exactly alike but are spelled differently, we have to work a little harder to remember which spelling goes with which definition. Read More

Homophones: Compliment vs. Complement

compliment vs complement

Homophones: compliment vs. complement.

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Sometimes, they’re also spelled differently: compliment vs. complement.

Since homophones sound the same, they are often misspelled. Sometimes they’re misspelled because the writer doesn’t know there are two different spellings. In other cases, misspelled homophones are the result of typing too fast or failing to proofread carefully.

Spell check will not catch these typos because the spelling is legitimate, even if it’s for a word with a different meaning.

To make it easier to remember which spelling goes with which meaning, we can use mnemonic devices, which are memory tricks. Today, we’re going to learn how to remember the difference between the homophones compliment and complement. Read More

Homophones: Affect vs. Effect

affect vs effect

Homophones sound alike: affect vs. effect.

Homophones can be confusing. Luckily, there’s an easy way to remember affect vs. effect.

I see it all the time: affect and effect mixed up as if they were completely interchangeable.

But they’re not.

These two homophones may sound exactly alike, but they don’t even belong to the same parts of speech!

If you’ve ever written one of these words and scrunched up your eyebrows wondering whether to spell it with an a or an e, then this grammar lesson is for you! Read More

Homophones: Accept vs. Except

accept vs except

Homophones: accept vs except.

The English language is fraught with sound-alike words that look nothing alike on the page (or screen). These homophones have given many writers headaches as they agonize over word choice while composing poems, articles, essays, and stories.

Accept vs. except is one such pair of words. Though not among the most commonly confused homophones, these two words do occasionally find themselves getting mixed up and used incorrectly.

Here’s a quick way to remember the difference between accept vs. except. Read More

Homophones: They’re, There, and Their

homophones

Homophones: they’re, there, and their.

Homophones are words that sound exactly alike when pronounced out loud but have completely different meanings. They’re such troublemakers. Homophones confuse kids, slip past spell check, and pop up all over the place as typos and misspellings.

To make things worse, many homophones have different spellings, which means spell check ignores them, since alternative spellings are correct.

These little devils of the English language give readers headaches and copy editors nightmares, so it’s up to us as writers to learn how to use homophones correctly. Read More

Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs

homophones homonyms and homographs

Homophones, homonyms, and homographs.

They perplex us, confuse us, and make our heads spin. If you thought learning how to correctly spell words that sound alike was difficult, wait till you try to learn the terms for describing those words.

Homophones

Homophones are words that are pronounced alike but have different meanings.

Some examples are accept and except, affect and effect, and triplets too and to and two, along with they’re and their and there.

Homophones may also refer to words that are spelled and pronounced the same but differ in meaning — for example lie (lie down) and lie (an untruth).

These words are a major source of frustration for many writers, students, and professionals who struggle to memorize variant spellings for words that sound alike but have different meanings. Read More

What is a Homophone?

what is a homophone

What is a homophone?

Homophones are those annoying words that sound exactly alike but have different meanings and are often spelled differently.

They give English teachers nightmares, cause headaches for students, and drive editors crazy.

We writers need to be diligent about homophones because spell-check won’t catch them, and many readers cite misspelled homophones as pet peeves.

And we never want to annoy our readers! That’s a cardinal sin.

Examples of Homophones




Here are some examples of homophones:

  • Their and there
  • Accept vs. except
  • Compliment vs complement
  • Its and It’s
  • Weather and whether
  • Bass or base

Homophones must sound the same but differ in meaning. They’re not always spelled the same, but they can share spelling. For example tie (tie a knot) and tie (fashion accessory worn around the neck).

These words can frustrate people who struggle to memorize variant spellings and meanings for words that sound alike, and spell check won’t catch the mistake when incorrect homophones are used, because variant spellings are legitimate.

 

Homophones and Spell Check

The problem with most homophones is that if we’re typing too quickly or not paying close attention to what we’re writing, we could accidentally end up with a properly spelled word, except it’s the wrong word. It doesn’t work in the context of the sentence.

As an example, let’s look at the homophones affect vs. effect. If you’re in a hurry or if you’re not fully concentrating on the task at hand, you could easily mistype the first letter of either of those words and end up with something like the following:

  • That movie had great special affects. (wrong: it should be special effects)
  • That movie effected me deeply. (wrong: it should be affected)

In the examples above, just one little letter was mistyped in each sentence. Typos like these happen all the time. That’s why we run spell-check and proofread our work. But since both affects and effected in the examples above are correct spellings, a program like Microsoft Word won’t catch them. In other words, spell-check cannot check to see if you are using words correctly.

Remembering Spellings

Wouldn’t it be cool if the built-in spell-check on the world’s most popular word-processing software had a homophone filter? It would work like the find feature, except it would point out all the words in your document that can be classified as homophones.

As far as I know, no such filter exists (at least not in the software I use. So writers and editors have to look for these nagging little typos manually — which is to say we have to proofread our texts carefully.

The funny thing about homophones is that they are rarely misspelled because the writer doesn’t know the correct usage. Usually, the misspelling occurs because the writer made a typo and then missed that typo during proofreading and editing (or failed to proofread and edit altogether).

Personally, I find that if a typo slips past my editing eyes, it’s almost always a homophone. And it drives me crazy.

What is a Homophone?

Do you have a good grasp on homophones? How do you feel when you find that you’ve misspelled a homophone in a piece of writing or a published blog post? Do these words give you more trouble in editing than other words? Got any tips for catching misspelled homophones or remembering the correct spellings and definitions? Please share your thoughts and questions by leaving a comment. And keep writing!

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

Homophones for Music Lovers: Turn up the Bass and Play a Chord

bass or base chord or cord

Homophones: bass or base? Chord or cord?

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Many homophones also have different spellings, and all too often, people mix them up.

The result is an onslaught of misspellings throughout the written universe.

Although these mistakes are understandable, they are problematic since they are contagious. If someone sees a homophone used incorrectly or misspelled enough times, they will assume the usage is correct and adopt it.

Thus the errors spread.

Ideally we’d make sure our language doesn’t contain these types of words. I’m sure we are creative enough to come up with completely new words, but unfortunately, language evolves of its own accord, so we must make do with what we have.

Today, we’ll look at two sets of homophones that have connections to music. The first set of homophones is bass and base. The second is chord and cord. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to use only common definitions of these homophones.




Homophones: Bass and Base

Both words, bass and base, rhyme with the following words: ace, face, lace, and race.

Bass

In music, there’s a word that’s generally used in lieu of the word low. That word is bass. There’s a bass clef, a bass guitar, and even bass speakers, which make cars go boom. All of these indicate sound that is low in tone. As you can see, this word can function as both a noun and adjective:

  • On piano, the left hand plays the bass clef while the right hand plays the treble clef. (adjective)
  • Charlie Pace played the bass. (noun)
  • Those bass speakers are too loud! (adjective)

It’s not a fish! Bass is an odd word because it looks like it should be pronounced to rhyme with class. Actually, when referring to fish, it is pronounced that way. Just remember when talking about sound and music, it’s spelled b-a-s-s and the a is a hard vowel.

Base

This word is not nearly as fun, even though it sounds just like bass. Its meaning usually indicates the bottom or core of something. It can also mean that from which something comes. This versatile word can function as a noun, adjective, or verb.

  • The base ingredient is flour. (adjective)
  • It looked like a home run but he only got to third base. (noun)
  • We don’t base our opinions on falsehoods. (verb)

Base sounds just like bass, but its spelled differently and doesn’t inherently deal with music or sound.

Homophones: Chord and Cord

Chord

In music, when you play three or more notes simultaneously, that’s a chord. The word chord is also used to refer to emotion.

  • Can you play a C chord on the guitar?
  • That episode really struck a chord with me.

Cord

You know that thing that connects your computer to the wall? That’s a cord. The same word refers to lengths of string or thin rope, such as the drawstring cord in the waistband of your sweatpants. A cord can also be a unit of volume. This word is a noun.

  • Can you plug this cord into the wall?
  • Tie it with a cord!
  • I just ordered a cord of firewood.

Mastering Homophones

Have you ever struggled with the spelling of bass or base? What about chord or cord? Many people find homophones challenging, but they’re actually pretty easy to learn if you just take the time. Share your thoughts on these an other homophones by leaving a comment.

10 Core Practices for Better Writing

Homophones: Which witch?

which witch

Which witch?

A reader left the following comment inquiring about the spelling of two sets of homophones:

“I have trouble with witch/which (and even so, I am not sure I have those right) and weather/wheather [sic]. any good ideas on how to keep them straight???”

I’ve already written a post addressing the difference between weather and whether.

Today, I’ll share some tips to help you remember how to toggle comfortably between the homophones which and witch.

First, We Spell Our Homophones

Spelling is appropriate, since we are discussing witches (Get it? Spelling, as in casting spells). The first step is to memorize the correct spelling of both words:

which
witch

Which witch?




Which witch? These two words sound exactly alike but they are totally different. In short, one of these is a mythological or supernatural individual who casts spells. The other is not a person at all; in fact it is merely a pronoun. How can you remember the difference?

  • Who, what, and where are also pronouns that start with the letters wh — just like the word which as in which pronoun do you like best?
  • Try to remember the phrase itch the witch. Notice that witch (a person who can itch) is spelled the same as itch with a w tacked on to the beginning.

Homophones are challenging for lots of people, but you can find easy tricks to help you remember the difference between words that sound alike but are spelled differently.

Next time someone asks which witch you’ll know exactly what to tell them.

Are there any homophones that give you grief? Got any tricks for remembering the difference between which and witch? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

10 Core Practices for Better Writing