Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different spellings, meanings, and purposes. In writing, they bring with them the good, the bad, and the ugly:


THE GOOD:     for rhyming, esp. when writing a poem

THE BAD:         wrong word/wrong place/wrong time

THE UGLY:       when people don’t care and don’t know the differences, and don’t check or correct their writing


For example, let’s look at “effect” vs. “affect,” which often cause confusion and trouble:

“Effect” is a noun (What effect will this issue have on my job?)

more often than it’s a verb (I will effect [produce] a solution to the problem today);

“affect” is a verb (How will that problem affect my job?).

Correct pronunciation helps to clarify spelling and usage: “ee-fect” (effect) vs. “uh-fect” (affect).


Remember: Using Spell Check while writing won’t catch homonym errors because the words sound alike. Two of the most-common homonym errors occur among the following groups of three:  to/two/too AND their/there/they’re. Writing the wrong word can result in embarrassment! When a contraction is involved, think about what it means. So, you’ll have to slow down a bit to think about meaning/intent and spelling while you write, and then you’ll have to proofread objectively and carefully. If you’re not sure, grab a dictionary and look it up.


Some other common homonyms:  are/our/hour, ball/bawl, bear/bare, beat/beet, been/bean/bin, board/bored, berry/bury, brake/break, chilly/chili, dear/deer, do/dew/doo, fairy/ferry, flee/flea, flower/flour, guest/guessed, hare/hair, him/hymn, hire/higher,  horse/hoarse, made/maid, merry/marry, might/mite, night/knight, no/know, new/knew, oar/ore, pain/pane, pair/pear/pare, peak/peek, peal/peel, rap/wrap, raise/rays, red/read, sore/soar, rain/rein/ reign,, sale/sail, steak/stake, see/sea, seen/scene, sell/cell, son/sun, scent/cent, steel/steal, so/sew, tail/tale, time/thyme, toe/tow, wait/weight, waste/waist, whale/wail, we/wee, whole/hole, wring/ring, you/yew.


Which homonyms are bad or ugly for you? What tricks do you have to keep certain ones good?


For more on homonyms, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym or https://www.abcteach.com/free/h/homonym_list_free.pdf. If you need additional help with spelling, grammar, or more, our low-cost online campus at www.writestyle.com may benefit you.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know through blog comments or via e-mail to writestyle@mindspring.com.


See you next week!

Vickie L. Weaver

Vickie L. Weaver

Owner at Writestyle
Writing has been an important talent and part of my life since I was a child.Professionally, after decades of employment for others, I founded Writestyle in 1996 to provide writing, editing, proofreading, training, and more to clients worldwide (www.writestyle.com).Clients often call my work “magic.”I have written and/or edited for “Coexistence Magazine” (national), for “Ohio Magazine,” and for various newspapers.In addition, I have edited or contributed to the writing of numerous books.Personally, I have written in various genres.I have always composed poetry; as such, I have won awards and publication for some of my poems, and I am compiling a book of my poetry.One of my children’s books is set for publication.With my second husband, family and friends in Ohio, I enjoy music and dance, aid charitable causes, and strive for beauty and harmony in life.
Vickie L. Weaver

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