Dealing with homonyms

The English language is filled with homonyms – words that are pronounced the same way but spelled differently and mean different things.

Often writers use an incorrect word, and not all grammar checking programs or even proofreader catch all the mistakes.

Here are some examples using the correct word and then followed by the often misused word and the definitions of the two.

Harold’s face twitched with a nervous tic.

tic – a periodic spasm

tick – a small bloodsucking arachnid or perhaps the sharp, recurring click (as of a clock)

The wording piqued my interest.

Pique – aroused or excited

Peaked – to be at the maximum (interest has peaked, and will probably soon decline)

Two vases of flowers stood on either side of the altar.

Altar -the structure in a place of worship

Alter – to change something

She wore a two carat diamond.

Carat – unite of weight for jewels

Caret – a small wedged-shaped mark (^) used by editors to indicate where text should be inserted

She grabbed a box of stationery.

Stationery – writing materials

Stationary – not moving

Donna always sticks to her principles.

Principle – code of conduct

Principal – (noun) the leader of a school or main sum of money owed on a loan  OR (adjective) describes something that is prominent or important (our principal concern)

His office was little more than a cubicle.

Cubicle – a small partitioned space

Cubical – shaped like a cube with six equal square sides

My husband believed in giving his staff free rein.

Rein – to guide (or in this case to give complete freedom)

Reign – to rule as a sovereign power

Rain – water falling to earth or a continuous descent or inflicting of anything (a rain of blows)

The car has dual air bags.

Dual – two

Duel – a contest between two people

The new curtains complemented the room nicely.

Complemented – went well with, enhanced

Complimented – to give a praise

Registration fees may be waived for low income families.

Waived – voluntarily forgo something

Waved – flapping up and down

The police arrived at the grisly scene.

Grisly – gruesome, ghastly

Grizzly – having hair that is gray

She felt as if she had been put through the wringer.

Wringer- a devise for wringing something out, squeezing it dry

Ringer – a person or thing that makes a ringing noise

His lawsuit claimed there had been a breach of contract.

Breach – violation

Breech – bottom or back end of something (a breech birth)

There are MANY other words that often get mixed up but I will leave those for another post.

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One thought on “Dealing with homonyms

  1. sjhigbee says:

    Homophones… hm – these always cause grief. While most writers nail the really obvious ones, there are always these tricky ones that escape the net… I do a Grammar Spot every term with my Creative Writing courses and most years I cover some of the more obscure homophones – there are a fair few of them! Thank you for raising the issue, because it is one of those areas that writers don’t realise they are making mistakes until it is pointed out and let’s face it – spellchecker is about as much help as a chocolate teapot.

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