It takes a bit of courage turning in any written work for critique. You’ve read your work out loud, dotted all your I’s, crossed all your T’s and even practiced the semicolon.

Then you receive your work with notes: witch is the wrong word in the sentence, “Witch way will the storm go?” You are in disbelief that you’ve made this error. Did spellcheck not catch this because it wasn’t spelled correctly, or was this a typo? 

Don’t feel bad—your first draft usually needs more eyes on it to become its best version of itself.  Editing and proofreading is just a part of the process. But brushing on homonyms couldn’t hurt, and understanding how to use them could set you up for careers as a writer, poet, or even multiple types of editing careers.

Three Rules To Rule

The homonyms definition encompasses three instances:

  • Words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings and spellings like deer and dear
  • Words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings, like to row a boat or to sort by row
  • Words that have the same spelling but different meanings and pronunciations, like a bass guitar or bass fishing.

Can You Use It In A Sentence?

Some common homonym examples you may encounter are words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same, but have different uses. 

You can park a car or  go to the dog park.

Take the sentence, “I wasn’t sure if I needed to go right at the stop sign but seeing the carnival lights in the distance means it was the right decision.” One involves a direction and the other is a decision.

Similarly, it could be words with the same sound but two entirely different spellings and meanings. Try right and write. You can’t find the right words to write the essay thoroughly. Or pair and pear. “The couple made a cute pair.” “Those are the biggest pear trees I’ve ever seen.” 

Now try words with the same spelling but different pronunciation and meanings: I shed a tear when I got a tear in my tire after a nail lodged in it. 

Words Case Scenario

You could spend eternity combing the dictionary or Googling other commonly used homonyms but here are some others to get started:

  • Bye! Don’t forget to swing by the store to buy art supplies after work.
  • Before we set sail, let’s have a yard sale.
  • It’s going to be chilly this evening, so let’s make spicy chili for dinner.
  • I almost died when I saw what color he dyed his hair.  
  • We sent over our scent selections for the custom candles.
  • I hear they’re moving here next week. 

Use these examples to get the creative juices flowing the next time you sit down and write.  If you’re editing, make sure you have your red pen handy to cross out the wrong uses of words. 

Same But Different

You may have heard of other literary devices and now your mind gets tangled when trying to remember which is which. Remember that a homonym can define three instances, one of them being words that sound the same but have different contexts—also known as a homophone. 

Think of it in the same relation to this example: all odd digits are numbers but not all numbers are odd digits, because numbers can also be even. The homonym serves as an overarching classification that branches out to define a homophone and other rules.

There’s A Word For that 

Understanding homonyms can make you a better overall writer and raise your grammar skills, especially if you’re considering an editing career that requires effective proofreading or working as a copy editor. You may still fall victim to typos, but with practice you can create witty work with clear instructions like a recipe to a delicious mousse and not a recipe to an angry moose. 

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Written by:

Sean Kettering