Those Mixed up Words!

Occasionally, I'll pull out an oldie but goodie. That's the case this week, my discussion about homophones. As an author, you really don't want to get these words wrong.

You post a status on Facebook. Or drop a tweet into Twitter, and you're immediate reaction is "Did I really do that?" Just what do you think is right in the sentence you just wrote, or perhaps wrong?

Maybe you blew it with one of the many homophones in our language. You know homophones – those words that sound exactly alike, but have meanings nowhere near each other. And now you're at risk of the Grammar Police nagging you until you do an edit, but what word do you use? How fast can you get this corrected? After all, no one wants a grammar cop on their case. Oh, you've seen people make fun of them, but those folks don't have one stalking them right this very minute.

How do you avoid these mistakes? There are some very simple rules to follow, and we'll go over some of the most mixed up words known to man today.


You're is the contraction of you are, as in: You're a great friend.
Your is the possessive of an adjective or an indication of a group or person, as in: Let's go to your house.


Than is a conjunction, a word that joins other words, like and, as in: I'd rather go here than there.
Then has many meanings, but it's popularly used as next or afterward, as in: Then we'll pick up Jack.


Accept means to receive, admit, or regard as true, as in: Accept was Susie's first thought when she ripped open the thick envelope from Stanford.
Except means to exclude, as in: The whole class except Bill, Jane, Joe, and Teresa will go on the field trip next Tuesday.


To is used as a preposition before a noun or as an infinitive before a verb, as in: He went to work, even though his friends took off for the beach.
Too is a synonym for also, as in: I'd like one, too.
Two is a number, as in: Jane picked up two oranges.


Their – third person plural, possessive adjective for things belonging to them, as in: Their horses cantered across the field.
There – a verb meaning opposite of here or a pronoun to introduce the noun or clause, or an adjective that emphasizes which person, as in: There is a problem with your car.
There is the contraction of they are, as in: They're leaving now.


Passed – the past tense of pass, as in: He passed the accident, after gazing at the destroyed vehicles.
Past is related to time, as in: Long ago and far away, in a time long past, humans had no idea machines would rule their world.


Bear – to carry, endure or tolerate, or maintain direction, or several other things, including a rather mean animal, as in: She lost the dignity she bears once the grizzly bear made its presence known.
Bare – uncovered, naked, or exposed, as in: Your low pants bare far more of your anatomy than I want to know about.


Its – possessive of it, as in: The door bang shut. Its slam echoed through the house.
It's – a contraction of it is, as in: It's a dog, but there is a cat running fast in the other direction.


Do – a verb meaning to carry out, as in: I have so much to do.
Due – payment or a date something must be turned in, as in: The term report is due tomorrow.
Dew – moisture or condensation, as in: There was heavy dew this morning.
Doo – is slang for a hairstyle, as in: My new doo is so great.


Opinion is mixed on this word, however if you write about historical fiction or even historical non-fiction, you might want to remember this difference.
Till – a cash drawer, as in: He opened the till.
'til – is the contraction of until, as in: Wait 'til we get there.


Pique – a verb meaning to arouse or stimulate, as in: The invitation piqued his interest.
Peak – is a verb meaning to reach a high point, or a noun meaning high point, as in: They climbed for hours before reaching the mountains peak.
Peek – a noun meaning a quick look or a verb meaning to take a quick look, as in: Her quick peek caused the soufflé to fall.
These aren't all of the mixed up words, or homophones as they're properly called, but they are the most abused. SO, the next time… excuse me. There's someone at the door.

Oh, goodness! That was the leader of the Grammar Police. He just gave me a shiny new badge, and then he swore me into their corps! You too can earn one of these badges by watching out for mixed up words.


Jack Strandburg said…
Kathi - when I wear my editor hat, it's amazing how often I see these words used incorrectly. What confuses me is the Spell Check in Microsoft Word flags 'it's' (used as contraction for it is) as an error, and just for kicks I'll change it to 'its' and Spell Check likes it. Strange.

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