A Very Useful Tool
Here’s another fun English eccentricity; ponder the humble homophones, those pesky words that sound the same, with different meanings and slightly different spellings.
We writers, no matter how lyrical our prose, how cutting our critique, are capable of committing the most embarrassing mistakes sometimes. These tiny blunders often go unnoticed until it’s too late, making a mess of good writing and leaving the grammar trolls baying for blood.
As I’m an offender myself, I’m not trying to be judgmental but there is one type of blunder I’m seeing more and more often. Few errors spoil a bit of excellent writing faster that tripping over common homophones. You know those “terrible twins” that we were all supposed to learn about in fifth grade. Well, now they’re everywhere.
Don’t let them get you!
This is a tiny epidemic all of its own and it can seriously spoil a good read. Browsing around, looking for interesting stuff online, you’ll get smacked in the eyeballs by any one of a host of misused, misspelled words. And after a day spent trawling the internet, even perfectly good words can start looking a little strange – or is it just me?
The Achilles heel of many a writer, is accepting what MS Office gives you, when it auto corrects your text and as long as the word is spelled properly, “context” usually doesn’t count.
A while back, I started keeping a list of the problem words I came across most often. I’m sharing it here ‘cause maybe someone can use it as a basis for their own list of annoying homophones.
Lots of homophones – in alphabetical order
Of course, it won’t help you if you make mistakes like this one on the internet, which is not a homophone; glutton – gluten (Ever seen this before? – in an article detailing the “glutton free” diet). But that’s phonetics for you!
Us writers have to keep the internet honest. Here’s my contribution as a freebie for you.
A accept, except | accessary, accessory | ad, add |adieu, ado | advice, advise | affect, effect | ail, ale | air, heir | aisle, I’ll, isle | all, awl | allowed, aloud | alms, arms | altar, alter | arc, ark | aren’t, aunt | ate, eight | auger, augur | auk, orc | aural, oral | away, aweigh | axe, acts | awe, oar, or, ore | axel, axle | Aye – eye – I
B bail, bale | bait, bate | baize, bays | bald, bawled | ball, bawl | band, banned | bard, barred | bare, bear | bark, barque | baron, barren | base, bass | bay, bey | bazaar, bizarre | be, bee | beach, beech | bean, been | beat, beet | beau, bow | beer, bier | bel, bell, belle | berry, bury | berth, birth | bight, bite, byte | billed, build | bitten, bittern | blew, blue | bloc, block | boar, bore | board, bored | boarder, border | bold, bowled | bole, bowl | boos, booze | born, borne | bough, bow | boy, buoy | brae, bray | braid, brayed | braise, brays, braze | brake, break | bread, bred | brewed, brood | brews, bruise | bridal, bridle | broach, brooch | but, butt | buy, by, bye | buyer, byre
C calendar, calender | call, caul | canvas, canvass | carat, caret, carrot | cash, cache | cast, caste | caster, castor | caught, court | caw, core, corps | cede, seed | ceil, seal | ceiling, sealing | cell, sell | censer, censor, sensor | cent, scent, sent | cereal, serial | cession, session | cheap, cheep | check, cheque | chews, choose | choir, quire | chord, cord | cite, sight, site | clack, claque | clew, clue | climb, clime | clique, click | close, cloze, clothes | coal, kohl | coarse, course | coign, coin | colonel, kernel | complacent, complaisant | complement, compliment | coo, coup | cops, copse | council, counsel | cousin, cozen | creak, creek | crews, cruise | cue, queue | curb, kerb | currant, current | cymbol, symbol
D dam, damn | days, daze | dear, deer | descent, dissent | desert, dessert | deviser, divisor | devise, device | dew, due | die, dye | discreet, discrete | doe, doh, dough | done, dun | douse, dowse | draft, draught | dual, duel
E earn, urn | eery, eyrie | ewe, yew, you
F faint, feint | fah, far | fair, fare | farther, father | fate, fête | faun, fawn | fay, fey | faze, phase | feat, feet | ferrule, ferule | few, phew | fie, phi | file, phial | find, fined | fir, fur | fizz, phiz | flair, flare | flaw, floor | flea, flee | flex, flecks | flew, flu, flue | floe, flow | flour, flower | foaled, fold | for, fore, four | foreword, forward | fort, fought | forth, fourth | foul, fowl | franc, frank | freeze, frieze | friar, fryer | furs, furze
G gait, gate | galipot, gallipot | gallop, galop | gamble, gambol | gays, gaze | genes, jeans | gild, guild | gilt, guilt | gin, djinn | giro, gyro | gnaw, nor | gneiss, nice | gorilla, guerilla | grate, great | greave, grieve | greys, graze | grisly, grizzly | groan, grown | guessed, guest
H hail, hale | hair, hare | hall, haul | hangar, hanger | hart, heart | haw, hoar, whore | hay, hey | heal, heel, he’ll | healed heeled | hear, here | heard, herd | he’d, heed | heroin, heroine | hew, hue | hi, high | higher, hire | him, hymn | ho, hoe | hoard, horde | hoarse, horse | holey, holy, wholly | hour, our
I idle, idol | in, inn | indict, indite | it’s, its |immanent, imminent
J jewel, joule
K key, quay | knave, nave | knead, need | knew, new, gnu | knight, night | knit, nit | knob, nob | knock, nock | knot, not | know, no | knows, nose
L laager, lager | lac, lack | lade, laid | lain, lane | lam, lamb | laps, lapse | larva, lava | lase, laze | law, lore | lay, ley | lea, lee | leach, leech | lead, led | leak, leek | lean, lien | leaver, lever | lessen, lesson | levee, levy | liar, lyre | licence, license | licker, liquor | lie, lye | lieu, loo | links, lynx | lo, low | load, lode | loan, lone | locks, lox | loop, loupe | loot, lute
M made, maid | mail, male | main, mane | maize, maze | mall, maul | manna, manner | mantel, mantle | mare, mayor | mark, marque | marshal, martial | marten, martin | mask, masque | maw, more | me, mi | mean, mien | meat, meet, mete | medal, meddle | metal, mettle | meter, metre | might, mite | miner, minor, mynah | mind, mined | missed, mist | moat, mote | mode, mowed | moor, more | moose, mousse | morning, mourning | muscle, mussel
N naval, navel | nay, neigh | nigh, nye | none, nun
O od, odd | ode, owed | oh, owe | one, won
P packed, pact | packs, pax | pail, pale | pain, pane | pair, pare, pear | palate, palette, pallet | pascal, paschal | paten, patten, pattern | pause, paws, pores, pours | pawn, porn | pea, pee | peace, piece | peak, peek, peke, pique | peal, peel | pearl, purl | pedal, peddle | peer, pier | pi, pie | pica, pika | place, plaice | plaintiff, plaintive | plain, plane | pleas, please | plum, plumb | pole, poll | paw/pore/pour, poor | poof, pouffe | practice, practise | praise, prays, preys | principal, principle | profit, prophet
Q quarts, quartz | quean, queen
R rack, wrack | rain, reign, rein | raise, rays, raze | rap, wrap | raw, roar | read, reed | read, red | real, reel | reek, wreak | rest, wrest | retch, wretch | review, revue | rheum, room | right, rite, wright, write | ring, wring | road, rode | roe, row | role, roll | roo, roux, rue | rood, rude | root, route | rose, rows | rota, rotor | rote, wrote | rough, ruff | rouse, rows | rung, wrung | rye, wry
S saver, savour | spade, spayed | sale, sail | satire, satyr | sauce, source | saw, soar, sore | scene, seen | scull, skull | sea, see | seam, seem | sear, seer, sere | seas, sees, seize | sew, so, sow | shake, sheikh | shear, sheer | shoe, shoo | shoot, chute | sic, sick | side, sighed | sign, sine | sink, synch | slay, sleigh | sloe, slow | sole, soul | some, sum | son, sun | sonny, sunny | sort, sought | spa, spar | staid, stayed | stair, stare | stake, steak | stalk, stork | stationary, stationery | steal, steel | stile, style | storey, story | straight, strait | suit, soot | sweet, suite, suet | swat, swot
T tacks, tax |tacked, tact | tale, tail | talk, torque | tare, tear | taught, taut, tort | tea, tee | team, teem | tear, tier | teas, tease | terce, terse | tern, turn | there, their, they’re | threw, through | throes, throws | throne, thrown | thyme, time | tic, tick | tide, tied | tire, tyre | to, too, two | toad, toed, towed | told, tolled | tole, toll | ton, tonne, tun | tor, tore | tough, tuff | troop, troupe | tuba, tuber
U Undo – undue |
V vain, vane, vein | vale, veil | vial, vile
W wail, wale, whale | wain, wane | waist, waste | wait, weight | waive, wave | wall, waul | wander, wonder|war, wore | ware, wear, where | warn, worn | wart, wort | watt, what | wax, whacks | way, weigh, whey | we, wee, whee | weak, week | weary, wary | we’d, weed | weal, we’ll, wheel | wean, ween | weather, whether | weaver, weever | weir, we’re | were, whirr | wet, whet | wheald, wheeled | which, witch | whig, wig | while, wile | whine, wine | whirl, whorl | whirled, world | whit, wit | white, wight | who’s, whose | woe, whoa | wood, would
X no x
Y yaw, yore, your, you’re | yoke, yolk | you’ll, yule
Z no z
Etc. – etc. – etc.
Do you know any homophones, I’ve left out here? Should you be a kindly soul, who wishes to make life a little bit easier for your fellow writers, please send the homophones along using the contact form and I will include them here.