Common Homophone Errors (and How to Avoid Them)
It’s time for a flashback to elementary school. Remember the unit on homophones, way back when? Homophones are words with the same pronunciation but different meanings and spellings (e.g., “wait” and “weight”). Many people mistake one term for the other when writing homophones. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most common homophone errors and how to spot them.
“Affect” is a verb that means to influence or cause a change in someone or something:
Smoking every day will affect your respiratory health.
“Effect” is a noun that refers to a change that happened because of an event or situation. It’s the result or consequence of something:
The new teaching method has a positive effect on students’ grades.
As a basic guideline, you can remember that “affect” generally functions as a verb, while “effect” is a noun. Another way to remember this rule is: A is for action (affect), and E is for the result (effect).
Many people incorrectly write “your” when they mean “you’re.”
Your going to love this cake. ✘
You’re going to love this cake. ✔
“Your” indicates possession, or something that belongs to someone:
Those are your gloves.
“You’re” is a contraction of the words “you are”:
You’re going to feel sore tomorrow if you don’t stretch.
If these two always confuse you, try to replace the word in question with “you are.” If it works, you should use “you’re.” And remember, it’s always “you’re welcome” and never “your welcome.”
Some of the most common homophone errors involve these three. “Their” is a possessive pronoun that shows ownership of something:
Their house is on fire!
“There” indicates location, meaning “in or at a certain place”:
I see a grey cat over there.
“They’re” is a contraction for the words “they are”:
They’re going to see a movie tonight.
To keep track of these homophones, try these tips:
- If the sentence refers to a place, use “there.”
- Inside “their” is the word “heir,” which is a person who inherits things from their family. So, you can remember that “their” shows ownership.
- If you write out “they are” and the sentence reads correctly, the right choice is “they’re.”
“Accept” is a verb that means to willingly receive or take something:
She accepted the invitation to the wedding.
Or to recognize an opinion, explanation, or theory as valid:
Patrick accepted the idea that humans can survive on Mars.
“Except” is a preposition that means “excluding” or “other than”:
Everyone except Alice brought a dish to the potluck.
An easy way to remember how to use these terms is to think of the “ex-” in “except” and associate it with “exclude.”
“Than” refers to the second part of a comparison:
Emma is taller than Catherine.
“Then” indicates time, meaning “at that time”:
I was studying biology then.
Let’s go to the pool. Then we can have dinner.
As there’s only a one-letter difference between these homophones, a simple trick is to remember that there’s a letter “e” in “time,” just as in “then,” whereas “than” includes a letter “a,” as in “compare.”
Becoming A Proofreader
If you enjoy fishing out homophones and other errors in writing, a career in proofreading and editing may be for you. Take a look at our Becoming A Proofreader course, which will provide you with a thorough understanding of spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, and references, plus guaranteed work with our partner company, Proofed, if you pass the final exam with distinction. Start your freelance proofreading journey with a free trial today!
Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published.