Friday, October 12

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, October 12, 2012 4 comments
They lurk in your manuscript, undetected by spell check, ready to ruin your reputation. Worse, you might not know that these devils do not belong.

What are these twisted, little enemies? Homophones.

This term, from the Latin, means "sound-alikes," not to be confused (as I have in the past) with homonyms, literally "name-alikes." Homonyms are things like the noun "beat," which could mean rhythm, the area a police officer patrols, or the subject area a journalist investigates. Every use is spelled the same.

Homophones, on the other hand, are words that sound the same, but have different meanings AND different spellings. Spell check will not find them because they are legitimate words in their own right. Homophone errors can be some of the hardest to ferret out in your work, in part because you may not be aware of the other term.

Educating yourself is key. And I find that mnemonic devices can really help, too. Here are a few I've tackled so far:

bare and bear
rain, rein and reign 
phase and faze

A few I plan to consider in the coming weeks:
whose and who's, they're and their
than and then
jibe and jive
pore and pour

Ramble news
I've been out and about talking to wonderful bloggers about many aspects of my debut. Here's a recap:
"The perfect fall-into-winter book": a review
Repulsion, Attraction, Connection: Romance is more than "hotness"
In loving memory: how autobiographical is Never Gone? (and a review)
Eleven book trailer tips
Why did I write Never Gone? Tackling "where is God when we suffer?"
Stories of our youth: empathy and transformation
Inspirations, and Why ghosts and God?

Coming next week: I'll be talking to Lynn Simpson on Monday about writer support and to Tyrean Martinson on Wednesday about "Why Dads matter."

What are some homophones that trip you up? Which set would you like me to tackle first?


  1. I've never had a problem with homophones! I excelled at English, grammar, reading, and spelling in my school days. Math and science, not so much! I like science, but to this day math gives me the heebie-jeebies! I'd much rather diagram a hundred sentences than solve one math problem.

    1. I was never a huge fan of math myself, but my hubby is positively phobic, so all the financial stuff falls to me. After a while,I've gotten to a certain comfort level, though I'd also rather diagram sentences!

  2. Oh, than and then! Most times I get it right, thinking about than being comparison and then being time, but every once in awhile a sentence stumps me.
    Here's another one for you: vice and vise. Even though I know precisely what each means, a crit partner caught me using the wrong one once. I think it's because they do sound the same our brains trip on them.

    1. I always get tripped up with compliment and complement. The "say nice things" versus "coordinate". I'll see if I can come up with some good mnemonics for then/than. Interesting about vice/vise. The latter term isn't used that often, except in woodworking.