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Homonyms – Did You Sea/See Them Their/There?
3/10/2015 3:52:00 PM by: Cindy Sproles

I love editors. They are a breed all their own. A bit OCD and leaning toward a perfectionist’s mentality, they are the eyes that make our writing spotless. Clean. Grammatically. . . spit-shined. Without them, many of us would be . . .well, let’s just say, we wouldn’t look as good as we do. But, if you want to have some fun with an editor, mess with a homonym and watch their eyes begin to roll.

Homonyms are, in some ways, tricky, but for the most part, it’s our lack of attention to them cause us to look bad. Writer’s fingers key faster than their brains work and it happens. The wrong word is chosen. Even Microsoft Word in all its glory can only search for misspelled words. In the case of a homonym, the words aren’t misspelled making spell check useless. This is when due diligence is important.

I recently reviewed a critique at a conference. This is what I saw:

She called there home. Sent them notes. But it wasn’t until Meg knocked on their door to bear her indiscretions, that Jon realized her fear.

Those pesky homonyms reared their ugly heads and in this case, made an advanced writer look sloppy.

Some homonyms are easily confused, such as bear and bare especially when portions of their meaning are similar.

Bear – an animal; give testimony (bear false witness); give birth
Bare – to support or uphold; naked; basic and simple

Then there are those homonyms that prove to be writer laziness or unwillingness to proof and correct. For example: Their – possessive case of they; belonging to, and there – a place.

Whatever the case, homonyms are basic mechanics in writing and a vital part of the self-editing process. Practice due diligence and professionalism in your writing by watching carefully for homonyms.

Below is a short list of commonly misused homonyms. Check out www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html for a more complete listing.

there – a place    OR    their – relating or belonging to

capital – most important   OR    capitol – center of government

discreet – confidential   OR    discrete – individual

threw – to propel by hand  OR  through – from end to end

too – also    OR    to – toward

pare– cut down   OR   pair – set of two

reign – sovereign rule    OR    rein – horse’s steering wheel

wreak – to inflict    OR    reek – to smell

elude – to escape   OR   illude – to deceive

then – past    OR    than – comparison

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