“Oh homophones, oh homophones, you make my righting oops writing crappy.”

For those of you not familiar with the term, a homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, and may differ in spelling. Homophones are the bane of my existence. Because they are technically not misspelled words, spellcheck does not normally mark them. So it is up to a proofer to catch these mistakes manually. Ultimately that lands on me, and I’m a poor proofer.

It boggles my mind how many words in the English language fall into this dreaded category. Everyone is familiar with the pitfalls of “their, there, and they’re” and “too, to, and two”, never forgetting the dreaded, “your and you’re”. Then there are some odd balls: “cheap and cheep”, “stock and stalk”, “hock and hawk”, “allowed and aloud”, “peak and peek”, “heal and heel”, “sole and soul”, “where, wear, and ware”, “weather and whether”, “which and witch”, “sight and site”, and the aforementioned “write and right”. And these are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Since a typical word count for one of my novels runs somewhere between 65 and 90 thousand words, you can imagine how many of those suckers hide in all that copy like sneaky little landmines. They are something any proofer can easily overlook, but a reader will catch them every time and sigh at my disappointing effort before moving on, if they are not too disgusted to do so.

And is it so (sow, sew) easy to do (dew, due). Since I am dictating to myself as I put the words to the page, they “sound” correct.  It becomes even more embarrassing if I am mispronouncing a word AND using it incorrectly. I found this with “bravado” and “vibrato” as just one example of my many shortcomings with my native language.

If you think about it, it’s no wonder other countries have such a tough time with English. We all like to poke fun at the poorly worded instructions that come with products made in China. But honestly, can you blame them? After years of trying to create sentence structure this side of decent, I can’t.

The purists would say, leave it to the pros with the English Doctorates to write what we read. That sounds about as fun as reading the ingredients on a tube of toothpaste.

Others would point out that gigantic publishing houses exist for the sole (not soul) purpose of eliminating these issues with professional editors, and self publishers have no one to blame if their writing is of poor structural quality. The only problem with this idealistic view is that it is incorrect. Anyone who has read any amount of “traditionally published” literature  will admit that they miss stuff too. So (sew, sow) what (watt) to (too, two) do (due, dew)?

This posting came about because I got a Facebook pic of some woman’s tweet. She wrote, “When he left this morning, I could still smell his colon on my sheets.” Yes, I thought it was funny too.  But someone in the following comments called her an idiot. My reaction to the comment was two (not too) fold:

“Wow, that was harsh. Thank God I don’t tweet.”



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