by Nann Dunne
Alan Cooper's useful site at
http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html contains a
comprehensive list of sound-alike words (homophones or homonyms)
that includes many words writers misuse. This misuse of words can be
difficult to overcome, because we think we're choosing the correct
word. When in doubt, check it out!
Here are just a few I've encountered in my years as
an editor and reader of fiction. Iím doing this short list from
memory, so you can bet Iíve seen them often enough for them to have
made an impression. I've added sentences to Alan's definitions to
help stress the differences in the pairs of words.
1. aid - to assist. Practice will aid your
aide - an assistant [usually a person]. She studied to
be a legal aide.
2. affect - to change. The opinion of your peers can
affect how you act.
effect - result. What effect does high heat
have on water?
3. altar - raised center of worship. A golden
cloth covered the altar.
alter - to change. She had to alter the
pants to fit her son.
4. bare - naked. The sun burned her bare legs.
|bear - wild ursine. The polar bear is snow white.
5. boarder - lodger who gets meals, too. The family
took in a boarder to make some extra money.
border - perimeter.
When the speeding car crossed the state border, the police had to
quit the chase.
6. bolder - more courageous, more outspoken. The
woman grew bolder when no one contradicted her.
boulder - large
rock. The shovel struck a boulder, which forced them to stop
7. born - brought into life. Janet was born on
borne - past participle of bear; carried. She had
borne hardship by herself for too many years.
8. breach - to break through. The soldiers were able
to breach the weakest spot in the enemy ranks.
breech - the back
part. The recoil of the cannonís breech nearly hit him.
9. cannon - big gun. The sound of cannon fire boomed
across the valley.
canon - body of law. Church canon decreed that
Sunday was the Sabbath.
10. capital - most important. The prisoner was
condemned for murder, a capital offense.
capitol - center of
government. The governor returned to the capitol building in
Harrisburg. (And Harrisburg is the capital [city] of
11. discreet - confidential. She was noted for being
discreet about peopleís business.
discrete - individual. The
porcelain shattered into discrete pieces when it hit the
12. faze - to disconcert, to stun. The punch didnít
faze the boxer at all.
phase - a part of the sequence. The
teenager was going through a troubling phase.
13. hoard - a great stash. Judy kept a hoard of
candy in her desk.
horde - a great many people. A horde of people
rushed to the mall for the sale.
14. lead - heavy metal. A wall of lead surrounded
the radioactive material.
led - guided. He led the horse through
the broken trees.
15. to - toward. It was time to go to bed.
also. She, too, attended the concert.
Note that these are just the tip of the iceberg, so
to speak. There are many, many more on Alanís site. It is worth
bookmarking. He also has links to other informative sites.
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