VEXING VOCABULARY RETURNS!

As writers, any of us would be horrified to discover we submitted a query letter or manuscript baring/bearing an incorrect homophone. The aim of this post is to save you from such mortification by getting to the root of 10 tricky pairs and trios: ALLOWED vs ALOUD; RAIN, REIN, REIGN; STATIONARY vs STATIONERY; SIGHT, SITE, CITE; THEIR, THERE, THEY’RE; ASSENT vs ASCENT; BEAR vs BARE; PRINCIPLE vs PRINCIPAL; COMPLEMENT vs COMPLIMENT; and last but most definitely not least, RIGHT, RITE, WRIGHT, WRITE!!

#1: BEAR vs BARE
BARE = nude, uncovered, empty, barren
In my humble opinion, an apple pie looks BARE without a crumb topping or lattice crust.

BEAR = grizzly, polar, black OR to endure, tolerate, carry, produce, display, support
A glossy black BEAR walked up to my husband as he was spreading mulch. Luckily, it appeared he was curious rather than hungry!

I’ll do my best to make this post BEARABLE!

#2: ALLOWED vs ALOUD
ALLOWED = permitted; the past tense of ALLOW
Students will be ALLOWED to use calculators on today’s math test. Phew!

ALOUD = spoken; out loud
Stephanie couldn’t resist uttering her snarky comment ALOUD.

#3: RAIN, REIN, REIGN
RAIN = precipitation in the form of dropsraindrops!
According to http://www.sciencing.com, there are four types of RAIN and four types of RAINdrops.

REIN = restrain, bridle, control, or limit.
By inserting FREE in front of this word, you achieve complete, unbridled freedom!

You can REIN in your temper or REIN in your horse. It’s safe to say that you shouldn’t give either one FREE REIN too frequently or you’ll become utterly drained.

REIGN (REIGNING) = rule, lead, prevailto hold sovereignty over a country or sporting event
Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England on February 6, 1952 and still REIGNS today. If you’re intrigued by the intertwined history of Elizabeth 1 and Mary, Queen of Scots, I highly recommend you watch the very adult Netflix series REIGN!!

#4: STATIONARY vs STATIONERY
STATIONARY = standing still, unmoving, unchanged
Though my creative muse has become STATIONARY since COVID-19 struck, I’m inspired by the remarkable feats of creativity exhibited by members of my writing groups.

STATIONERY = note paper, especially the kind with matching envelopes
I’m attracted to patterned STATIONERY and vow to write more personal notes.
This version of the homophone ends in ERY. How might you remember that? Try this mnemonic: envelope starts and ends with E!

#5: SIGHT, SITE, CITE
SIGHT = vision, view; related to EYESIGHT
You’re a SIGHT for my lonely eyes, though I can only view you via Zoom.

SITE = position, location, usually of a structure or event; abbreviation for WEBSITE
Should we conduct our critique meeting on-site at my house or off-site at Panera? Most dictionaries agree that on-site and off-site should always be hyphenated. But in practice, you’ll see these words combined into one (onsite and offsite) and separated into two like in the cartoon at the left.

CITE= quote, praise, summon; CITATION is based upon this root
Make sure to CITE the proper source documents or websites when you write a research paper.

#6: THEIR, THEY’RE, THERE
THEIR = belonging to them; the possessive form, like YOUR and ITS
The teacher asked students to raise THEIR hands before speaking in class.

THEY’RE = a contraction meaning THEY ARE (when in doubt, substituting THEY ARE for THEY’RE will help you determine if this is the right form)
THEY’RE (THEY ARE) excited about life beginning to return to normal.

THERE = Where? Over THERE! THERE is a preposition!
Look over THERE! There are two little bunny ears sticking out of the grass.

#7: ASSENT vs ASCENT

ASCENT = climb – as a verb or noun
The ASCENT was treacherous at times, but we made it to the top of the mountain and planted our flag.

ASSENT = agree, agreement, consent, approve, approval
Mr. James gave his enthusiastic assent to the media center proposal.

#8: PRINCIPLE vs PRINCIPAL
PRINCIPLE = truth, concept, morals, doctrine; in principal means in theory
The principle of this program is to teach kids about internet safety.

PRINCIPAL = main, chief, primary, ruler, director; head of a school
Maritza Jenson is the PRINCIPAL architect of the civic center project.

#9: COMPLEMENT vs COMPLIMENT
Witch/which is mood-boosting and which provides a nice accompaniment? Take a guess before viewing my definitions and sentences.

COMPLEMENT = If you guessed this means a nice accompaniment, you’re correct! It also means total, aggregate, and supplement.
Raspberry sauce makes a delicious complement to chocolate lava cake. Major yum!

COMPLIMENT = accolade, praise, good wishes (definitely mood-boosting)
I’d like to COMPLIMENT the authors who post to the Writers’ Rumpus blog and the readers who take the time to comment.

#10: RIGHT, RITE, WRIGHT, WRITE
As writers, it’s critical you keep these words straight!

RIGHT = the opposite of left, correct
Turn RIGHT at the next light and it will bring you to the RIGHT street.

RITE = ceremony, RITual
For many teens, getting a driver’s license is a RITE of passage.

WRIGHT = a maker or builder; also pertains to the Brothers Wright of flight experiment fame
What do you call a WRIGHT who builds boats? The answer is a shipWRIGHT!

WRITE = compose, draft, jot down
Whether you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, WRITE down your precious thoughts and ideas!!

Ready to challenge yourself to a short homophone quiz? Check out Spoonful #20: HOMOPHONE FUN on my personal blog, A SPOONFUL OF GRAMMAR.

Are you interested in decoding more VEXING VOCABULARY? Check out VEXING VOCABULARY PART 1 and VEXING VOCABULARY PART 2, here on Writers’ Rumpus.

12 comments

      1. Thanks for your comment, Hilary! I’m glad you enjoyed this and found it helpful.

        Like

    1. Thanks, Deb! Your comment made me smile. Trust me when I say that homophones trip up many people.

      Like

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