homophones, grammar, writing,

Photo Source: Pablo Stanley

The business world excepts nothing less than error-free writing.

We’ve all been there. Texting, Twitter, emails, and more reveal the English-speaking public needs a lesson in grammar. English majors weep at the sight of your aunt’s red-faced political rant on Facebook.

It’s not that much of a surprise to see flagrant grammatical errors daily. The English language is a tricky set of symbols to command with authority. Commas, colons, hyphens, and more beef up the difficulty, and thousands of words often conflict with each other and creates confusion.

Take the noun “jackrabbit” for example. It has “rabbit” in the name, so we deduce that the jackrabbit is a species of rabbits. Wrong. A jackrabbit hails from the genus of Lepus: the same step-above-species group hares originate from. Even in the previous sentence, we see the English language in all of its confusing glory. “Hails” in that sentence means one’s home or origins, but “hales,” an uncommon verb for to drag forcibly, sounds just like “hails.”

There’s a term for that phenomenon. They’re called homophones. In brief, homophones are words that sound the exact same phonetically (saying it out loud with identical annunciation), though differing in meaning and spelling. They have the potential to convey an entirely different sentence with a simple misspelling.

For an example, let’s go back to hares. “’I miss my hair,’ said the balding middle-aged man, can quickly change to a man lamenting the loss of his furry friend with “I miss my hare.” That’s a simple look at homophones; others are a little trickier to decipher. A simple reply to your grandmother after she asked about Jennifer’s new hair color could quickly become traumatic. “She just dyed” morphs to “She just died.”

Homophones are the English language’s miscreant little devils wrecking havoc on all English writers. No matter what skill level, age, or title, improper use of homophones leads to embarrassing mistakes. Your co-worker, instructor, or boss will likely understand what you meant, but the mistake reflects poorly on you because the lack of care given to proofread your work.

Most common Homophones (find more here):

  • Its, It’s
  • Their, There, They’re
  • Your, You’re
  • Wood, Would
  • Weather, Whether
  • Compliment, Complement
  • By, Buy, Bye
  • To, Too, Two
  • Lie, Lay
  • Then, Than
  • Allude, Elude
  • Accept, Except

Four more grammatical wake-up calls, direct you’re attention to hour post on misplaced modifiers.


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