Homophones - How to use them.

by N J Thornton   Dec 6, 2005

Everyone wants to be better at writing, whether it be poetry, stories, or song lyrics. There are many subjects to consider when striving to write a great piece. There’s one thing all writers have in common; they need to know how to use the English language. I have devised some effective tips to ensure you are using the correct words in the correct places.

Homophones describe the words that sound the same but have different meanings. They can be a tricky business; I mean how do you know when to use which word? Some common mistakes occur with your and you’re, there, their and they’re, and hear and here.
This is how to use some of those tricky homophones accurately.

ALLOWED – refers to if you’re able to do something with or without restriction e.g. “You’re allowed a drink.”
ALOUD – this is where you can clearly hear a certain sound; it may be loud. It is the opposite of whispering or being quiet.

BARE – is when someone or something is uncovered or naked e.g. “Bare feet.”
BEAR – this refers to the grizzly mammal often thought to roam caves.

BOARD – is a hard sheet of thick card or wood. It can mean to enter or embark e.g. “Get on board,” too.
BORED – is when you have lost interest and become unable to concentrate on a particular thing any longer e.g. “I’m bored.”

BRAKE – refers to the slowing down of a vehicle such as a car, e.g. “Put on the brake to slow down the car.”
BREAK – to damage something often knocking it into smaller fragments e.g. “Oops I broke the vase.”

DEW – The tiny water drops often found on flowers in the morning.
DUE – Time or amount that is owing or expected to happen e.g. “My homework is due in tomorrow.”

FLOUR – is the white power often used in cooking, or to avoid sticking when baking.
FLOWER – is the plant with petals. Examples of flowers are roses and tulips.

HEAR- refers to listening to something. Sound picked up by the ears, is what you can hear.
HERE – refers to something being in this place e.g. “Over here.”

KNEW – this refers to previously knowing something, and being aware of the situation.
NEW – is when something is fresh, and is often described as “brand new.”

KNIGHT – often a tall, handsome man in fairytales dressed in shiny, silver armor, who saves the princess from her distress.
NIGHT - hours of darkness, when the moon and stars appear. Usually when we are sleeping and nocturnal animals wake. It is the opposite to day.

PAIR– this is when you have two of something e.g. “a pair of socks.”
PEAR – this refers to the sweet fruit that is slender at the top, with a round bottom.

PEACE – is a harmonious time with the absence of war and disagreement.
PIECE – can be a portion, which has been separated from a larger one e.g. “A piece of cake.” Alternatively, it can refer to a piece of work, such as a poem.

RIGHT – is used when someone or something is correct. “Right” is the opposite of wrong.
WRITE – is what we all love to do. We “write” poetry on this site. It is the use of language noted down in symbol form.

SIGHT – is something visual, your eyes play a very important part in having sight e.g. “you’re only just in sight.”
SITE – is the area of a built or potential structure. It can be used on the Internet to describe a web page, and is called a website.

STAIRS - is one flight of steps or a series of steps, for example, a staircase.
STARES – is looking at something or someone intently, it can make a person feel uncomfortable if one stares at he or she for a long time.

THEIR – is a possession word. E.g. if a hat belongs to a person, you say it is “their hat.”
THERE- refers to something being in a particular place, e.g. “over there.” It can be used to introduce a sentence too.
THEY’RE – is short for “they are.” A good way to understand when this should be used is to substitute “they’re” for “they are” and see if it still makes sense. See “You’re” for more information.

TO – is going towards someone or something. “I’m going to the park” is an example of this.
TOO – is used to say “also”, “as well” and “in addition” e.g. “I love you too.”
TWO – is the number 2.

WEAR – refers carrying or having clothes or a covering garment. Often refers to ones appearance.
WHERE – refers to at or in what place. It’s usually used at the beginning of a question e.g. “where are you?”

WHICH – is used at the start of a question, and refers to a choice of options, e.g. “Which one?”
WITCH – refers to the ladies who like to cast spells and in mythical tales ride around on broomsticks.

YOU’RE – is short for you are. A good way to work out if you should use “you’re” is to substitute it for the words “you are” and see if it still makes sense. If the answer is yes, you are welcome to change it back to “you’re.” However, if it does not you should use “your.”
YOUR – is used when it belongs to someone. If it’s a possession of a person, whether it be an object or emotion, “your” should be used.

I realize there are many, many more, but unfortunately I cannot fit them on here so I used the ones I feel are most common.
This should be of use to most poets and writers if they have trouble fathoming which word should be used where.

Hopefully, it will improve your writing skills and ensure all your work is completely legible and that it makes complete sense. No longer will you receive those critiques explaining, “This word should be used here instead of the current one.” Because lets face it, it is slightly embarrassing and irritating when you have to keep editing a poem because of incorrect homophone use.

Another good idea is to use a spell checker with every piece of work you write. If a piece of writing is presented poorly and there are several silly spelling mistakes, the reader may not take the poem seriously and not even complete the read. As a poet and writer, this is presumably not what you want, so remember to spell check.

If there are still some homophones that you are unsure of, Internet sites should help. If you go onto a search engine such as google, and type “homophones,” there should be some sites appear that can help you. If not go to dictionary.com (or look in a regular dictionary) and it will explain the meaning, from which you should be able to determine how to use the word. If you are still stuck with a word, I will be more than happy to help.

Remember, don’t be homophonbic, learn your homophones and use them well!

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