11th December 2016
Spelling Tips: Our 10 “Most Wanted” Homophones
Homophones—i.e., words that sound the same but differ in spelling and meaning—can cause a lot of confusion when you’re not sure which term to use in your written work.
Some mix-ups are definitely more common than others, though, so here’s our list of ten prominent “reoffenders.” Keep an eye out for them when you’re next writing something!
Only one letter separates these terms, but each one has a distinct meaning. “Then” is used when referring to time:
Call me at eight. I’ll be ready by then.
Or when discussing consequences:
If you struggle with spelling, then you might want to hire a proofreader!
“Than,” meanwhile, is used primarily for making comparisons:
I’m better at grammar than spelling.
“Hear” and “here” are very different words: while “hear” means “sense a sound” or “listen,” “here” means “in this place.” Keep in mind that “hear” contains “ear,” which is what you listen with!
These are very easy to confuse, since both refer to change. The important distinction is that “affect” is a verb (i.e., the act of changing something), but “effect” is usually a noun (i.e., the result).
Find this useful?
Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.
Although they look similar on the page, you won’t want to confuse these terms in your work. “Where” refers to locations, “were” is the past tense of “are,” and “we’re” is short for “we are.”
Mixing these up is common if English isn’t your first language, as they sound similar despite having very different meanings: “our” is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to us,” but “are” is a present tense form of the verb “to be.”
In this case, the words look similar but are pronounced differently, as well as being importantly distinct in their use. “Now” means “at this time,” while “know” is a verb meaning “understand.”
Like “where,” “were” and “we’re,” these homophones are commonly confused due to being similarly spelled. To ensure clarity, remember that “there” means “in that place,” “their” means “belonging to them,” and “they’re” is an abbreviation of “they are.”
Although apostrophes are often used to indicate possession, the possessive pronoun “its” doesn’t need one. If you’re forming a contraction of “it is” or “it has” (i.e., “it’s”), however, you should use an apostrophe to show that letters have been omitted.
Another common error is mixing up “too” (an adverb meaning “also” or “excessively”) and “to” (a preposition that often indicates direction or duration, as well as being used in combination with infinitive verbs). Even if you know the difference between these homophones, keep in mind that it’s easy to make a typo!
At the top of our list of “most wanted” homophones are “your” and “you’re,” simply because they’re so commonly mistaken in day-to-day writing (just check social media if you don’t believe us).
Remember, though, that “your” is a possessive pronoun that means “belonging to you” (e.g., “Your spelling is outstanding!”), while “you’re” is a contraction of “you are” (e.g., “You’re a great speller!).
Grammar Tips: Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers
In the grammar world, positioning is everything. The wrong word in the wrong place can change the...
How to Organize References Easily Using ChatGPT
Putting together a reference list is an important and necessary part of writing a paper,...
How to Create a Study Plan Using ChatGPT
Perhaps you don’t even have to imagine the scenario: you have exams coming up and...
How to Cite a Dataset in Harvard Referencing
If you retrieve information from a dataset for your paper, you need to cite the...
What Is the Plural of Quiz?
Whether you’re in class, at the pub, or watching TV, you’re likely to find yourself...
A Student’s Guide to Using ChatGPT
The emergence of AI-powered chatbots has led us all to wonder how we could use...
institutions and businesses