There's no Their They're -- Fun With Homonyms from the Grammar CurmudgeonJan 7, 2003 (Updated Feb 6, 2003) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in Sport and OutdoorThe Bottom Line Don't depend on a spell checker to choose the right word for you. Proofread, too!
MY SPELL CHECKER
I have a gnu spell checker; it came with my pea see.
It plane lee marks four my review miss steaks aye dew knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it, yore shore reel glad to no;
Its very polished in its weigh. My checker tolled me sew.
Each frays come posed up on my screen eye trust to be a joule.
The checker pores or every word to cheque sum spelling rule...
That scrap of verse (The whole poem* is a lot longer, but somewhat boring) first came across my desk twenty years ago. And though word processing software is now immensely more sophisticated than the DOS-based copy of WordPerfect I used then, apparently the spelling skills of Internet correspondents have atrophied.
Have another look at that sample of doggerel: every word contained passes the spell checker in my version of MS-Word (except cheque, since I have UK rules turned off). And yet of the seventy-two words contained, thirty-four are flat-out wrong. They're homonyms of the right word.
Remember Homonyms From School?
Homonyms are two (or more) words that sound the same but have different meanings. "Through" and threw or right and write are examples. Most of us probably wouldnt mis-type jewel as joule in everyday writing I mean, how often does the MKS unit of energy come up in your conversation, right? There are, though, plenty of common swapped homonyms cropping up constantly in writing on this site that to put it bluntly make me cringe when I see them.
Since spell-checkers are notorious for their inability to read your mind (and that yellow-billed wordpicker on the Submit a Review page is worse than most), its still your job as a writer to proofread your work. Pay close attention to homonyms when you do because, for some of us, they simply leap off the page. Here are just four of the sets that are most frequently abused:
your and youre:
your is a possessive pronoun: your book means the book belonging to you
youre is a contraction of you are: Youre cute means You are cute.
NOT: Your so vain you think youre face is godlike.
YES: Youre so vain you think your face is godlike.
do and due (ignoring dew for now):
do to means to perform an action on or against
due to means caused by or because of
NOT: Do to the weather, I had to calculate the area of a circle.
YES: Due to the weather, I had to calculate the perimeter of a square.
their, there, theyre:
their is a possessive pronoun: their paradiddle is the paradiddle belonging to them.
there denotes a place: Dont put the oxen here, put them over there.
theyre is a contraction of they are: Theyre solipsists means They are solipsists.
NOT: There supposed to park theyre humvees their, inside the chain link fence.
YES: Theyre supposed to park their humvees there, inside the chain link fence.
its and its
its is a possessive pronoun: its lumbar pillow is the lumbar pillow belonging to it.
its is a contraction for it is: Its raining ungulants and ruminants outside means It is raining ungulants and ruminants outside.
NOT: Its so hot today the building is hiding in its shadow.
YES: Its so hot today the building is hiding in its shadow.
In the real world, youre judged by your work whether you're writing for a teacher, a boss, or a client, you should want to put the best possible face on your work. Careless substitutions of homonyms and letting a spell checker do the work both suggest to a reader that your work habits are sloppy. No matter whether youre writing a quick note to a loved one, a letter of application for a job, or a formal report for your job, practice proofreading. And dont depend on a spell checker to get it write four ewe!
This is intended to be the first of a series of notes from the Grammar Curmudgeon, an irregular series of what, diatribes? rants? suggestions? on improving the quality of your writing not just here on Epinions, but every time you create a sentence, a paragraph, or even a book. Feel free to suggest further topics (I already have a generations worth up my sleeve).
See the next Grammar Curmudgeon rant at Apostrophes
* see http://www2.misnet.com/~rick/mensa/oct96.html for a longer version
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