Homonym Usage

How might you choose a homonym that is spelled correctly and communicates your meaning accurately?

  • Consult a dictionary or thesaurus: If you experience a niggling feeling that you haven’t used the correct word, consult a dictionary or thesaurus.
  • Make cautious use of your computer’s word processor: Correct errors that are indicated by the grammar and spell check function. However, keep in mind that a homonym that is spelled correctly may not have the correct meaning in the context of your paper.
  • Ask someone else to read your paper for you: Another set of eyes looking at your paper will increase the chance of catching a homonym error.
  • Make a deposit in your memory banks: One of the most effective ways to facilitate the correct use of homonyms is to store them in your memory.
  • Read widely and often: The more frequently you see words spelled and used correctly in reliable text, the more likely you are to use them correctly in your own writing.
  • Some of the most commonly-confused homonyms include:
    • there, their, and they’re
    • its and it’s
    • your and you’re
    • to, too, and two
    • affect and effect
    • accept and except
    • complement and compliment