Miss-Elaineous Proofreading

Tips and Tricks for Perfectly Polished English

Posts tagged homonym

39 notes

Role and roll

I attended a wonderful opera performance this past weekend, but the theatre programme inspired this blog entry by describing an actress’ “leading roll”.

Role is used to describe a part someone may play.  For example, this can be acting, a job, or even a relationship: That actor is best known for playing various roles in Shakespearean plays.  Due to my role as a proofreader, I find myself always on the lookout for grammatical errors. In addition to being the CEO of a large corporation, Suzy’s role as a wife and mother meant she had very little time for herself. 

Roll has a variety of meanings: among other things, it can be something you eat, a cylinder or tube, or a verb indicating motion — check out the link for a complete list of definitions.  Some common uses: I snacked on a warm, buttered roll fresh from the oven. Simon discovered that empty toilet paper rolls made great cat toys. He rolled the dice and hoped to pass Go. The rolling of the ship in the storm made everyone seasick.

Filed under homonym homophone common error

2 notes

Feat and feet (and fête)

Following on from meat and meet, a similar homonym pair to watch out for is feat and feet.

Feat is an achievement that requires skill or strength.  Climbing Mt. Everest is a feat of bravery. The mythological labours of Hercules are incredible feats of strength and stamina.

Feet is the plural of foot or a form of measurement. Both of the explorer’s feet had frostbite during his ascent up Everest. Some people prefer to measure in feet and inches, while others like the metric system.

One way to tell these words apart is that you have two feet and feet has two e’s. 

Neither word should be confused with fête, which is typically pronounced like “fate” and used to indicate a celebration (e.g. a village fête).

Filed under homonym homophone

0 notes

Meat and meet

Although I only occasionally find these homonyms confused in the papers I proofread, it is worth being aware of them to avoid an embarrassing mix up.

Meat is what you eat, and to make it easy to remember, the word “eat” forms part of the word.  Vegetarians do not eat meat.

Meet is typically used when you encounter someone for the first time.  The scene where Romeo and Juliet meet is very romantic.  The phrase “meet and greet” is sometimes used, and it is a good way to help remember how the word is spelt: both meet and greet have a double e.

Filed under homonym homophone

12 notes

Stationary and stationery

Unlike some of the more common homonyms (e.g. their/there/they’re or your/you’re), this is one that most people don’t think about until it comes time to spell it. 

Stationary with an A means immobile or unmoving. The strong anchor kept the ship stationary despite the rough seasGeorge remained stationary so as not to attract the attention of the angry bees.

Stationery with an E means writing paper or office supplies. I received a beautiful stationery set for my birthday. The stationery cupboard at the office was running low on supplies today.

I have an unusual way of keeping these words separate, but it seems to work: the letter A has two legs and is stationary; the letter e has a rounded bottom and is not.

Filed under common error spelling homonym homophone

5 notes

Elicit and illicit

Mixing up elicit and illicit can sometimes elicit a chuckle from proofreaders.

Elicit mean “to evoke” or “draw forth”: The magician’s death-defying trick elicited a gasp from the audience. Polling experts canvassed the neighbourhood to elicit opinions about the forthcoming election.

Illicit means something that is forbidden.  The politician’s confession to an illicit affair elicited strong reactions on the media. That he was also found to be in possession of illicit drugs did not help his case.

Filed under homonym homophone common error

8 notes

Whole and hole

Whole means “entire” or “all of”: "I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” was the tagline for Alka Seltzer advertisements.  The fundraiser was a success, and the whole class was able to go on the field trip.

I have mentioned the need to “elevate your tone" in formal writing, and whole is one such word that can easily be elevated to “entire”.

Hole is the thing you dig, a gap, or an opening: He tore a hole in his trousers while walking to the 5th hole of the golf course. Although she claimed that breaking up with her boyfriend had left a hole in her heart, she seemed to have forgotten all about him by the following week.  The pirates dug a hole to bury their treasure.

Filed under homonym homophone

7 notes

Serial and cereal

Yesterday’s discussion of the serial comma (a.k.a. Oxford or Harvard comma) reminded me of this homonym pair that deserves recognition.

Serial means that something is part of a series: Charles Dickens’ novels were usually published in serial form. Something that is repeated is also said to be serial: Serial killers tend to capture the public imagination for some macabre reason.

Cereal is what you have for breakfast, or the grains that such food products are made from: Grains such as wheat, oats, and corn are considered cereals. A bowl of cereal is a good way to start the day.  Did you hear the joke about Snap, Crackle, and Pop being found murdered? Police say it was a cereal killer!

Filed under homonym homophone

4 notes

Miner and minor

A major mistake is mixing up miner and minor in your writing; read on for a discussion of the difference between the two.

A miner is a person who works in a mine.  Miners work underground in dark, dangerous conditions.

Minor, however, has multiple meanings.  As a noun, it can describe a person below the age of consent or legal responsibility: As the students were minors, the teacher had to collect parental permission slips before they could go on the field trip.

In the US, a minor is a secondary subject that a student studies at university: My major was Archaeology and my minor Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College.

As an adjective, minor indicates something of less importance: Proofreaders check for both major and minor errors.  After reading about the working conditions of miners, it made my complaints about the office seem minor in comparison.

Filed under homonym homophone common error

7 notes

Altar and alter

Still don’t believe me that it isn’t enough just to use a spellchecker on your document?

The couple walked down the isle to the alter to say they’re wedding vowels. (courtesy of @proofreadworks)

Last Sunday I discussed the difference between a vow of marriage and a vowel that is a letter, and it seems fitting to continue this theme with a look at altar and alter.

An altar is a noun and signifies a table or structure used in a religious ceremony: The Romans often dedicated altars to gods in return for answered prayers. The flowers on the altar matched the bride’s dress.

Alter is a verb meaning “to change”: The dress needed to be altered before it could be worn.  Whilst standing in front of the altar, the priest said that neither the bride nor the groom should try to alter each other, but rather accept and celebrate their differences.

Filed under common error homonym homophone

8 notes

Accept and except

As you may have guessed from reading this blog, there are always exceptions to the rules of English grammar.  However, one thing that is commonly accepted is that homonyms will trip people up, and the pair of accept and except is no exception.

Accept is a verb meaning “to receive” or “to approve of”.  I accepted the parcel on behalf of my neighbour. The club accepted him for a probationary period; without exception, all club members started with six months of probation.

Except means the opposite, and is used to signify exclusion or the term “unless”: I accept parcels for my neighbour, except when they’re too large to store. Except for today, the weather has been sunny every day this week.

If you want your writing to be exceptional and stand out from the crowd, accept that you have to be extra careful around homonyms!

Filed under homonym homophone common error