You’ve seenÂ it before. You’re reading a perfectly good blog or book and thereÂ it isÂ — right in the middle of the page,Â glaring at you like a neon sign. Of course, writer that you are, yourÂ focus on whatever it is that you were reading is now completely gone.
What on earthÂ am IÂ talking about? What could cause such a disruption in someone’s reading? What is it?
It’s a misused word, of course. I’m talking about homonyms. Homonyms are words that sound alike, but have completely different meanings. They are usually spelled differently.Â (You can read theÂ Merriam-Webster definition of a homonym here.)
I read many blogs and books and I see homonyms misused often.Â Some blogs are so full of homonym mistakes that they are actually difficult to read.Â I don’t know how others react, but every time that I see a misused word my perception of that writerÂ goes down slightly. It’s not a conscious decision that I make, it’s just the result of years ofÂ reading and writing.Â
Homonyms are especially hard for writers and bloggers to catch, because they don’t show up in spell check. (That is because they are actually words. They are just words that are being used incorrectly.)
It helps to be aware ofÂ the words that are commonly misused. The Alan Cooper Homonyms site lists some of the most common homonyms. Funbrain has a quiz game to help you to learn correct word usage. (It’s for kids, but it’s also a good brush up for adult writers and bloggers.) Here is another helpful homonym game.
There are literally dozens of homonyms. Probably the ones that I see misused most often are two, to, and too. So, for the record, here are the correct uses of those words:
- Two — “Two” can be used as an adjective, noun, or pronoun. Most importantly, its useÂ refers to a number. Example: I have two articles due tomorrow.
- To — “To”Â can beÂ used as a preposition or an adverb.Â Examples:Â I went to a bidding site to find some help for my projects. To my shock, the article was poorly written and full of misused homonyms.Â
- Too — “Too” can be used as an adverb or adjective. Examples: There were too many mistakes in what she submitted. She had gone too far when she claimed that she could help.
I’ve hated homonyms ever since a homonym disqualified meÂ from the fourth grade spelling bee. (That’s a true story; I correctly spelled the homonym, though.) But, the truth is, if you want your writing toÂ hold the attention of your reader and to appear professional, thenÂ youÂ need to avoid making mistakesÂ with homonyms.
Â Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.