Homophones

Homophones are one of the most common English grammar mistakes for children and teenagers. When you break it down it is very easy to see why. The word homophone splits into two root parts: “homo” meaning “the same” and “phone” meaning “speech sound”. So when you put it together and get “the same sound,” you might wonder how you are supposed to know the difference between words when they sound exactly the same!

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Well, there are some tricks that you can remember to ensure you use the correct spelling of a homophone. Before we get into those life-saving tricks, let’s look at some of the most commonly mistaken examples of homophones. Some homophones are much more difficult to grasp than others. A lot of them you mastered when you were a little kid, and some might still give you a little bit of trouble to this day. I see dozens of mistakes on Facebook and Twitter every single day, so it tells me that not even adults have totally figured out this small sliver of grammar. Let’s start out with some of the easier examples of homophones to get the idea.

  • Red, read 
    • “I read somewhere that Taylor’s favorite color is red.
  • Paws, pause 
    • Pause the game for a second and tell me if something looks wrong with Buster’s paws.”
  • Ate, eight
    • “I ate eight slices of pizza for dinner last night.”

Now here are some trickier ones with tips to help you remember:

  • Advice, advise 
    • “I advise you to take my advice.”
      • Tip: “Advice” has the word “ice” in it, which are both nouns.
  • Affect, effect
    • “Will knowing the chemical effect of the medicine affect your decision to purchase it?”
      • Tip: “Affect” is an action word and both “affect” and “action” start with the letter “a”.
  • Principal, principle
    • For my outstanding use of principles in the situation, I got personally thanked by the principal.”
      • Tip: Remember that the principal is your pal and you will always get this word right.
  • There, their, they’re
    • Examples:
      • “I don’t know if I have enough time to get there, it is a 20 minute walk.”
      • “If Bill and Steve take their car they will make it with plenty of time to spare.”
      • They’re leaving now and picking up the rest of the group.”
  • To, too, two
    • Examples:
      • “If you come with me to Chipotle later, I will pay.”
      • “Okay, Jimmy said he wants to come too.”
      • “I am so hungry I might get two burritos for myself.”

The “Spell Checker Poem” is a well-known poem by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar where over half the words are incorrect but all are spelled correctly. It serves as a caution to those who rely on spell-check when editing papers. Here is an excerpt:

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise

I have a spelling checker,

It came with my PC.

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,

Your sure reel glad two no.

Its vary polished in it’s weigh.

My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,

It freeze yew lodes of thyme.

It helps me right awl stiles two reed,

And aides me when eye rime.

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Mnemonic devices can be very useful when trying to remember the differences between homophones. Everyone has a different style of remembering so try thinking of some for yourself to help you in the future.

If you struggle with these, bare with it. If you right down tricks every weak, you will be shore to sea an improvement!

Sources:
http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vvg7o
http://walkerediting.com/index.php/blog/theretheirtheyre-tricky-homophones/
http://grammar.about.com/od/spelling/a/spellcheck.htm

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