Homophones







This week is one of my favorite subjects, homophones. Exactly what is a homophone? It’s a word that sounds like another word but has a very different meaning. As authors, we are expected to use homophones correctly, or at the least set up our grammar checker to catch those instances when we’re using them wrong.

Nothing is more off-putting to a publisher than reading through an otherwise outstanding manuscript and continually running across incorrectly used homophones. Many publishers will reject the work once they see one incorrect homophone and not bother to tell you why. This is why it’s important to have a trusted beta reader or critique group look over your book before you submit. That first impression is the only time you’ll get to catch a publisher’s attention.

Below is a list of the worst offenders on the homophone list. There are many more you should be aware of though.

Your/You’re

Your is a pronoun and shows possession. Your dog got loose from the yard.
You’re is a contraction of you are. You’re in trouble now.

Its/It’s

Its is a possessive form. The cat lost its ball.
It’s is a contraction for it is. It’s hot outside today.

Their/There/They’re

There is a pronoun. Their coats were hung in the closet.
There is a place. We put the dishes over there.
There is a contraction for they are. They’re running in the track meet.

Affect/Effect

Affect means to influence. Missing class didn’t affect his grade.
Effect is used as a noun. The effect of mushrooms on the taste of food is negligible.

Than/There

Than is used for comparisons. I’d rather have ice cream than a cookie.
Then is used to show the passage of time. We left early but then didn’t get to the campsite until late that night.

Hear/Here

Here is an adverb used to show location. Put it down here.
Hear is a verb meaning listening. He can hear her calling him.

Are/Our

Are is a to be verb in the present tense. We are going to the movies.
Our is an adjective, the plural possessive for we. Our game isn’t going well.

Accept/Except

Accept is a verb meaning to receive. I accepted the decision.
Except is a preposition meaning to exclude. Everyone had their lunch except John.

To/Too/Two

To can be a preposition. It’s time for us to get ready to leave.
Too is an adverb meaning excessive or a synonym meaning also. It was too hot to move.
Two is a number. There were two of them.

Bear/Bare

Bear is for an animal or the act of holding or supporting. The bear was running right toward us.
Bare is an adjective meaning a lack of clothes. His bare arms were reddening in the intense sunlight.

Break/Brake

Break means to shatter something or to take a recess. Our spring break is next week.
Brake to stop or a device that ends motion. He slammed on the brakes.

Aloud/Allowed

Aloud refers to speaking out loud. He read the passage aloud.
Allowed means to be permitted. We are allowed to go to the gym after school.

Principal/Principle

Principal is the head of a school or an organization, or a sum of money. Our principal spoke at the commencement ceremony.
Principle means basic truth or law. She stuck by her principles.

Site/Sight/Cite

Site is a place you are seeing. We went to the website.
Sight is what you see with your eyes. My eyesight is twenty/twenty.
Cite is what you do on your term papers. Citing the books for this paper was difficult.

Right/Write/Rite

Right refers to direction. He turned to the right.
Write refers to what authors do. I am writing a book.
Rite refers to a ceremony or ritual. Getting a car is a rite of passage for a teen.

Lose/Loose

Lose means to be defeated. How can our football team lose so many games?
Loose means not fitting tightly or properly. My pants are too loose.

Worse/Worst

Worse means of poor quality or standard. No matter how hard I tried, everything got worse.
Worst is the superlative of bad or ill. That was the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to.

These are just a few of the homophones you will find misused. While their meanings are clear to most people, some of us have trouble remembering which one goes where. A suggestion? Make sure your grammar checker is set to check for misused words. A blue line will appear under any word that isn’t used right, including homophones.




About the K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Those who know her best will tell you that nothing is safe or sacred when she is observing real life. In fact, she considers any situation she witnesses as fair game when plotting a new story.

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