May 18, 2017 237 M+W

Taming Troublesome Homophones

The English language can be a tricky little monster. Context is king in a lot of situations, and too many of the words – called homophones — sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. So what is a blogger to do if he or she is decent at writing but not an authority on some nuances?

Proofreading is the easiest step in lending a blog post an air of authority and value. But even then mistakes can get through, especially if writers read the post aloud. Homophones are a challenge, but some are more common than others. Here are 10 culprits to be on the lookout for and the proper uses of each:

Their/there/they’re

We are going to their house. (possession)

We are going there. (a place)

They’re coming to our house. (contraction of “they are”)

 

Your/you’re

I have your cat. (possession)

You’re coming to get the cat. (contraction of “you are”)

 

To/too/two

We are going to the store. (preposition)

We want her to come too, but it will cost too much. (in addition or excessively)

She brought two pizzas with her (a number)

 

Loose/lose

This dress is loose on me. (ill-fitting)

He tried to lose 20 pounds (get rid of or misplace)

 

Then/than

We’ll eat dinner then go to a movie. (sequence of events)

I have more popcorn than she does. (comparison)

 

It’s/its

It’s raining outside. (contraction of “it is”)

I gave the dog its food (possessive)

 

Capital/Capitol

Salem is the capital of Oregon. (a city – also used for financial capital and capital letters)

We climbed the stairs to the top of the state Capitol. (the building itself)

 

Principal/principle

The principal at my school is great. (a person – also used for principal on a loan)

These are the principles we follow. (basic truth or law)

 

Compliment/complement

He gave her a nice compliment. (kind words – also used for free items such as complimentary breakfast)

Dark chocolate is a nice complement to red wine. (enhancement)

 

Affect/effect

The heat affects how the players perform. (verb)

This movie has great special effects. (noun – also can be a verb in the sense of “effecting change”)

Writers who can master these troublesome 10 sound-alikes will be ahead of the game in writing great content. Readers will appreciate the clarity of language, and that just might translate into a better brand image and increased sales.

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