Homophones: Words that Sound the Same But Should Look Different

Our conference chair, Ms. Carrie McCullough, will be blogging next week since I’ll be out of pocket, and I’m sure she’ll cover a lot of the editor stuff, but I wanted to take a second and go over some BASIC BASICS. There are some mistakes so monumental, so HUGE, that you NEVER, EVER, EVER want an agent, editor or publisher to see them. Remember the Pronoun Monster? He’s a joke compared to the Homophone Dragon. And every editor has the innate ability to morph into the aforementioned Homophone Dragon at just the sight of one IMPROPER USAGE of the homophones below.

YOUR and YOU’RE
YOUR is a posessive pronoun. Use it when you’re referring to someone’s property, feelings, etc. Example: YOUR backpack looks very heavy.

YOU’RE is a contraction. It joins the pronoun YOU with the present tense of “to be”–otherwise known as “are.”
Example: You’re going to be sorry you were so mean to me!

ITS and IT’S
ITS is a possessive pronoun. Just like ‘your’, use it to denote possession.
Example: The dog chewed on its bone.

IT’S is a contraction. It joins the pronoun IT with the present tense of “to be”—otherwise known as “is.”
Example: It’s raining cats and dogs.

THERE, THEIR and THEY’RE
THERE refers to a place. It can be concrete (the building over there) or abstract (you don’t want to go there.)
Example: Are the napkins over there by the china cabinet?

THEIR is a possessive adjective. Use it to denote ownership.
Example: The kids overcame their fear of water by learning to swim.

THEY’RE is a contraction using the pronoun they with the present tense of the verb “to be.” It can only be used as a subject.
Example: They’re going to a party later.

TOO, TO and TWO
TOO is always an adverb meaning “also” or “in addition to.”
I’d like to go to the movies, too.

TO is a preposition used when you’re talking about direction. It is also used to form the infinitive of a verb.
Example (preposition): I went to the market.
Example (infinitive): I want to play basketball.

TWO is always a number. It can’t be used in any other way.
Example: Please send two pair of pants with your child.

WHO’S and WHOSE
WHO’S is a contraction of who and the present tense of the verb “to be.”
Who’s going to the party with me?

WHOSE is a possessive pronoun.
Whose house is this?

If you’ve been confusing any of the above words, check your closet. What you thought was the quiet hiss of the A/C might be something more sinister.

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