American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language Fourth Edition Online What Are Homophones and Why Are They Important?

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What Are Homophones and Why Are They Important?

Remember when your English teacher painstakingly taught you about homophones in middle school or high school? Do you remember what homophones are and when to use them? When it comes to written communications that contain important and precise instructions, misuse of the word can not only cause confusion but also lead to some wrong or dangerous consequences.

So what is a homophone? According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, a homophone is one of two or more words that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, origin, and sometimes spelling, such as “night” and “knight.” Should we make a big deal about how these words are used or spelled? Absolutely!

It became clear to me that the misuse of homophones is a growing problem, even in technical writing among college graduate courses. After the first few mistakes where I discovered the misuse of homophones in some lecture presentations for several of my graduate classes, I began to realize that this was not just a typo, but a literary fraud. I remember my high school English teachers teaching us how to use homophones to match the specific definition of a word to avoid misinterpretations and confusion when communicating. In writing, you will occasionally encounter some type of error, but proofreading a document, manuscript, or policy manual is extremely important, especially when time-sensitive material must be interpreted accurately.

Here are a few commonly used homophones that are still surprisingly found in some professional and informal written communication:

1. Wear, product, where

2. Whether or not the weather

3. To fly, to hurt

4. There, their

5. Pour, poor, pore

6. Also for two

7. Cute, suite

8. To plough, to plough

9. Pair, pear

10. Write correctly

11. Perfume, sent, cent

12. Time, Thyme

Test yourself to understand how to use the above words in the correct context and in the intended sentence structure. How can you improve your ability to use homophones correctly?

1. Use your dictionary and/or thesaurus often.

2. Use your “spell check” feature to check the spelling and grammar of many words and phrases that are highlighted in red, blue, or green underline color as you type in your computer’s Word processor. Sometimes the spell check feature may not catch every misspelled word in a way that you can use it because it might be the correct spelling of a word that you are not familiar with. Also, the spell check feature may try to correct some of your formal or informal names and words that you don’t want corrected. Be aware of the possibilities when using this feature to check for spelling and grammar errors.

3. Don’t hesitate to ask your English teacher or literature professor for guidance on correct word usage. There may be some professional writers who can help you with homophone variations.

In our society, where clear and detail-oriented communication is essential to various areas of our lives, improper use of homophones can be a liability in the decision-making process.

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