Homophones are a trap for the unwary!

English is the second or third language for most Indian writers. It is natural not to know its intricacies—and English certainly doesn’t make it easy—so confusing and contradictory are its grammar rules. However, that is no reason why writers shouldn’t make an effort to master the language—one step at a time!

Master what you can control before you worry about what you can’t control.

~ Hunter Post

Homophones are words that have different spellings—and meanings—but the same pronunciation. There is a huge list of such words in English. They trip up writers all the time who end up using the wrong word in their writing. It makes sense for them to strengthen their writing skills by learning the right way to use homophones. Read more about them here.

Lose versus Loose

Lose – Present tense of lost… as in to be deprived of something or cease to have something; to cause someone to be deprived of something.

Incorrect: Loose that untidy hair by tomorrow or loose your chance to go with us to the swanky club!

Correct: Lose that untidy hair by tomorrow or lose your chance to go with us to the swanky club!

Loose – Not firmly or tightly fixed in place- like a loose bolt; to release or set free.

Incorrect: The dog’s collar was lose, so Bob tightened it.

Correct: The dog’s collar was loose, so Bob tightened it.

Its versus It’s

its – Possessive pronoun of an animal or something of a neutral gender.

Incorrect: This knife is useless; it’s blade is blunt.

Correct: This knife is useless; its blade is blunt.

it’s – Contraction of it is or it has.

Incorrect: Jimmy never misses his morning walk. Its his favorite part of the day.
Correct: Jimmy never misses his morning walk. It’s his favorite part of the day.

Your versus You’re

Your – Possessive form of you (typically used before a noun).

IncorrectYou’re skirt is so beautiful!

CorrectYour skirt is so beautiful!

You’re – Contraction of you are.

IncorrectYour a wonderful writer!

CorrectYou’re a wonderful writer!

Their vs. They’re vs. There

Their – Possessive adjective indicating that something belongs to a bunch of more than two people.

Incorrect: Our team is highly motivated. They are determined to do there best in the competition tomorrow!

Correct: Our team is highly motivated. They are determined to do their best in the competition tomorrow!

They’re – Contraction of they are.

Incorrect: Where have they gone? Their at the mall.

Correct: Where have they gone? They’re at the mall.

There – Reference to the existence of something; a place or position.

Incorrect: Their is heavy rain in Mumbai today.

Correct: There is heavy rain in Mumbai today.

Affect vs. Effect

Affect – To have an effect on; make a difference to; an emotion or desire.

Incorrect: My hunger effects my behavior.

Correct: My hunger affects my behavior.

Effect – To bring about; to cause something to happen; a change that is a result of an action or cause.

Incorrect: Her presence has an incredible affect on him.

Correct: Her presence has an incredible effect on him.

This is hardly a comprehensive list. There are plenty of other homophones which are as confusing as the five above. There are many exhaustive lists available online that Google can pull up for you in a jiffy.

Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.    

~ Peter Drucker

Homophones are definitely challenging. You may look up the meaning and usage today—and understand it perfectly well. But a week later, there you are, as confused as ever. It is most annoying.

Which homophones tie you up in naughts… oops… nots… oops… knots?