Typo Watch: Words That Sound Alike But Are Not

One of the most common writing pitfalls I have discovered in writing and editing is the problem of homophones, words that sound alike, but are usually spelled differently and contain differing meanings. With the advent of smooth operating computer keyboards and automated spellchecks, typing speeds have escalated exponentially, even for those of us (ahem, that would be me o/) who eschewed formal typing classes in high school because of their perceived irrelevance to future endeavors (remind me to tell you someday how that worked out for me). So we type quickly, trust in our spellcheck systems to catch subtle errors, and miss the telltale signs of trouble which careful proofreading and editing might have avoided.

Their our numerous examples of words which slip threw are editorial filters do two there similarity in form and sound. 

I will wait a moment.

Still waiting.

Tapping my toes and waiting for your responses. Read the sentence above again. Do you see any problems? How might you edit the sentence so that it retains its implied meaning, yet employs the correct words?

Let me try it again: There are numerous examples of words which slip through our editorial filters due to their similarity in form and sound.

Look better? Now that was an easy one, to be sure. But imagine just one or two similar typos in a large body of text ranging from 1,000 to 90,000 words. The deluge of text can overwhelm the author and editors, making it far easier to miss the errors. Add to this that spell checkers check for spelling, not for correct word usage.

Rather than attempting to cite numerous examples of homophones here, I prefer instead to direct your attention to the website Homophone.com. Compiled by a private individual, the site (play on words intended) gives a modest sampling of the kinds of words which can be problematic.

Ask yourself what words tend to trip you up in your writing, causing you to insert a similarly sounding homophone in place of the precise word which conveys your intended meaning?


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