Something I’ve noticed a lot of recently is people mixing up common words. Now this doesn’t matter to me one bit when it’s in slang, a text message or on Facebook but when I see it in a professional document I can’t help but cringe. So let’s clear up some of the confusion.
First let’s learn some definitions:
Homonym – Words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings.
Homographs - Words that look the same but may/may not be spelled different. Homophones – Words that sound the same but may/may not be spelled different.
Some Common Homonyms:
Bore(d) and Board
- Bore(d) - To be fed-up, having nothing to do, uninterested. / Bore – to create this feeling in others
- Bore(d) – To drill, dig, burrow, a hole into. It looks and sounds exactly the same.
- Board – A plank of piece of wood (as in cupboard and boardwalk)
- Board – A committee or council of people in business.
- Board – To go onto, as in to go aboard a ship or to board a vessel.
- Waist – A part of the human body.
- Waste – Trash (discarded products) / Use badly / Weaken (Sometimes slang for destroy).
- Write – As in to write a letter or article.
- Right – Correct.
- Right – To have rights or have the right to something.
- Right – The opposite of left (As a left/mixed-hander myself, it’s not nice that left-handed originally means wrong or sinister.
- Rite – Used in ceremonies. I.e. A rite of passage.
- Wright – Old word meaning `worker’. Mostly used in playwright.
When learning the correct usages of similar words it’s important to remember each one individually.
Tips for Getting it Right
- Check words beginning with E / N like Ensure/Insure and Elicit and Illicit as these are often mixed up.
- Check similar words ending in EPT or ECT like accept/except/affect/effect. They all have different meanings.
- If there’s even one letter difference it may mean something completely different. I.e. Appraise/apprise, altar/alter, lose/loose etc
- Watch out for I/E differences in the middle like compliment/complement.
- Also look out for words that end in E like born/borne
- Look out for words such as all together (meaning grouped together or all at once) and altogether(completely or wholly).
- Check the UK/US spellings.
- Find a good reference - You can find these all over the web but it’s also good to have a book to hand with the differences. Of course a dictionary or thesaurus will always but there’s a great chapter on this in `Woe is I, The Grammaphobe’s Guide To Better English in Plain English‘ by `Patricia T. O’Connor.’
- I can spell (with the help of my spellchecker and dictionary…) (pennybirdcopywritingservices.wordpress.com)
- Stinking words you hate (jennifermeaton.wordpress.com)
- App in offerta: Audio dictionary – WordWeb American English (Reference) (evilrit.com)
- How do you prepare for a spell bee (wiki.answers.com)
- I have a big dictionary, and I’m not afraid to use it (nitpickersnook.wordpress.com)
- Improve Your Vocabulary (socyberty.com)
- The Weekly Ten: My Favorite Words (collegecandy.com)
- Spelling Instruction (6thgradescottforesmanreadingstreetresources.wordpress.com)