Homophonia

Word pairs (sometimes triplets) which sound the same but have different meanings and are spelled differently are most often called homophones. They wreak havoc with writers, editors, and proofreaders for two main reasons: spellcheck doesn’t recognize them as mistakes since they are real words that are just misused and the autocorrect function on phones and computers often tries to “correct” them incorrectly. I call this phenomenon Homophonia.

Why should writers care? If the words you choose are misspelled or misused, they reflect on your ability as a writer. They can say to the reader, “This is a masterpiece of word art!” If the errors are glaring, they can shout, “A first grader could have been more coherent!”

I believe it’s essential to pay attention to usage, punctuation, grammar, and spelling. I learned what I know because I read a lot of books. If the books I had read had been full of errors, how would I have known the difference between (for example) peel and peal?

No, the English language is not perfect, and it is evolving, which is one more reason to be diligent in its usage. If the next generation can’t define and use correctly the homophones listed below, how will they ever know enough to talk about the properties of an ice floe, or the flow rate of a river approaching flood stage?

Here is an exercise for anyone who wishes to take the challenge. Write a sentence using both words (or all three) from a row on the Homophones Chart in one sentence. I gave an example earlier, using floe and flow.

The list is not all-inclusive, and I had help from my husband, Ray, and our waitress, Mavis as I attempted to think of examples. Here are some homophones on which you can practice.

Homophone Chart
1 Past Passed  
2 Your You’re Yore
3 They’re There Their
4 Peel Peal  
5 It’s Its  
6 Brake Break  
7 Peek Peak Pique
8 Stake Steak  
9 You Ewe Yew
10 Hair Hare  
11 Die Dye  
12 Pie Pi  
13 Eye Aye I
14 Scent Sent  
15 Purl Pearl  
16 Sore Soar  
17 Bore Boar Boor
18 Board Bored  
19 Pail Pale  
20 Hale Hail  
21 Hart Heart  
22 Male Mail  
23 Tail Tale  
24 Two Too To
25 Toe Tow  
26 Oar Or Ore
27 War Wore  
28 Pore Pour Poor
29 Do Dew  
30 Err Ere Air
31 Awl All  
32 Ail Ale  
33 Aide Ade Aid
34 Crewed Crude  
35 Brewed Brood  
36 Week Weak  
37 Wrest Rest  
38 Made Maid  
39 Grate Great  
40 Plain Plane  
41 Sac Sack  
42 Minor Miner  
43 Sheer Shear  
44 Who’s Whose  
45 Whole Hole  
46 Sail Sale  
47 Hew Hue  
48 Prey Pray  
49 Blue Blew  
50 Shoe Shoo  
51 Beet Beat  
52 Ah Awe  
53 Hall Haul  
54 Maul Mall  
55 Mite Might  
56 Write Right Rite
57 Meet Meat  
58 Flee Flea  
59 For Four Fore
60 Wants Once  
61 Bawl Ball  
62 Knows Nose Noes (plural of no)

You may also submit a homophone pair (or triplet) which isn’t on this list. Let’s have some fun. Who knows? We might even learn something.

About Sue Eller

Mystery and sci-fi author
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