Phobic about Homophones
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Homophones are words that sound the same but have different spellings. I think homophones can be a writer's bane, if the writer isn't careful. Here is a list online that lists many common homophones, although I'll include a few that aren't on the list.
As a freelance editor/proofreader, I come across homophones used incorrectly. As a writer, I know I have used some incorrectly myself. Sometimes I even have to look it up when I write or edit. I'll mention a few.
Bear - Furry animal
Bear - See this dictionary entry here since there are so many different ways of using "bear"Bare - Naked, not clothed
The furry animal "bear" is probably the easiest. I must admit the others can get hairy.
Okay, I know this isn't a real homophone technically, but I had a world of trouble with it in Once Upon a December Nightmare and still do.
Farther – more, increase in distance
Further – more, increase
In order to tell the difference, I always try to say it "more + distance." If it works with that combination, then it is "farther." If not, it's "further." If I'm still confused, I'll pick a different word.
Clinch – secure or fix
Clench – to close tightly, tighten something, like a fist
I like to think of "clinch" as to win, you secure a victory.
Clench is what you do to hands, teeth, etc.
I don't see "rain" being used as interchangeably as "reign" and "rein."
Rain – precipitation
Rein – a strap fastened to an animal, a restraining influence, controlling or guiding power, or opportunity for unhampered activity
Reign – a royal authority, the dominion, sway, or influence of one resembling a monarch, the time during which one rules
The best way I can think of this one is to think of royalty. If you are talking about royalty, then it is "reign." If you are talking about horses or controlling or restraining emotions, yourself, etc., then it is "rein."
This one was actually talked about on the radio one day when I was coming to work. The DJs mentions that they wanted to correct their friends' emails, especially when they exchanged "threw" for "through."
Threw – Past tense of the verb "to throw," propel in the air
Through – movement from one side to another
A ball you threw can go through the window. I guess the best way to think about it is to think whether or not you are doing the action or not. If you throw something, then you (i.e character) did it.
It's/Its or Your/You're or There/Their/They're
Particularly with the difference between "its" and "it's" or "your" and "you're" or "there," "their" and "they're," you have to think the word out. It is (or it's) really the only way to do it. If you can say "It is" or "You are" or "They are," then you have "It's," "You're" and "They're." If you have possessives, then you want "its" food; "your" homework; "their" jobs. And, if it is "there," it's just there. *winks*
As I mentioned, there are many, many more homophones out there. The key is to know which ones you have problems with and keep them in mind when you write. That's what I do, and it does help. Or you can cheat like I do and use a different word here and there. I won't tell.
Do you have any homophones that give you trouble? Do you have any hints on how to avoid the homophone trap?