While proofreading your writing, you will be checking for many errors or problems. While the spell checker you may be using in your word processing application will find most obvious spelling mistakes (see the Spell Checker page for more details), there are instances in the English language where the spelling you have used may be entirely correct but the word may be used in the wrong instance or in the wrong context. This is called a homophone.

Sometimes in English writing, words can sound alike but be spelled differently and have entirely different usage and meanings. Homophones are words that have similar (or sometimes identical) pronunciation but have different spellings and meanings.

While proofreading your work, look out for some of the most common homophones. For example:

None of these homophones would be highlighted by your spell-checker software, if they were all spelled correctly, but they could easily have been used in the wrong context. While some grammar checking software will highlight many of these, only thorough proofreading will ensure that they are found and used in the correct context.

The meanings of each of these homophones is not outlined here, so you should make good use of your dictionary if you are at all unsure of the meaning, and therefore usage, of each of these words. Remember to use your thesaurus too. This allows you to use a much wider vocabulary and potentially avoid using some of these words in the first place.

Homophones needn't be a problem in your writing. Thorough proofreading and a keen eye for your word usage will ensure that you spot any instance where you may have used a homophone and applied it incorrectly.

Find out about proofreading and editing.

Find out about spell-checkers.

Find out about grammar checkers.

Find out about eggcorns.