Welcome back too my editing discussion. My apologies four being away from it for so long. As you’ve probably scene…it’s been a bit busy around hear.
And no, I didn’t fire my editor. Today, I want to talk about the bane of every self-published author and every editor out there: homonyms, homophones, and homographs. These are the words that, like in my paragraph above, play with us and tease us. We think our text is perfectly edited, then someone snarks us with a “their, they’re, there” jpeg.
The worst part is remembering which is which.
Homomyns: Same sound, but the spelling may be the same or different.
- Examples: There, their, and they’re. Hear and here. Pear and pair.
Homophone: Same sound, but different spelling.
- Examples: Pear and pair. Here and hear.
Homograph: Same spelling, but the sound may be the same or different.
- Examples: Tear and tear. Lie (like lie to me) and Lie (as in lie down).
Don’t worry if you can’t keep the labels straight. Unless you’re in an English class, it’s not really important. What you need to know is that pear and pair aren’t used interchangeably.
I wish I could say that there’s a clever way to avoid making mistakes with these words. There isn’t. You’ll be writing along, minding your own business, and the next thing you know, Tom and Mark are eating apples and pairs. These words creep up on us because we overlook them, because of confusing context, or because we’re thinking about something that happens to draw out the homonym.
You’ll write them, so expect to find them. When you are editing, be especially careful to watch out for them.
Fortunately, I have found a way to find them when you are editing.
I know that it seems strange to think that by reading aloud, you’ll catch when you’ve used hear instead of here, but when we combine the audio and visual recognition, homophones stand out. It isn’t perfect, but it increases the likelihood that you’ll catch the error than if you just read the passage. Something else that reading aloud will do is tell you if you’re likely to read a word as its homonym rather than what you intended due to the context of the larger passage, indicating that perhaps you want to use a different synonym.
And that’s pretty much it. I mean, there’s not much to discuss. You have a bunch of words that sound the same but are not always spelled the same, that have different meanings. You’ll end up misusing them when you’re writing…it’s going to happen, so you have to learn to watch out for them.
My suggestion: Read pretty much any comment section of any website. When I say that we will use them, I mean that. Practice reading comment sections and picking out the misused homophones. It will make it easier to pick them out in you’re own work.
And good writing.
Next time: Lie down and lay down the lie.
My very useful site if you’re dealing with Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs: here.