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Subsection 7.3.5 Considering Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Because homophones share the same pronunciations (or sound similar), they are commonly confused in writing, especially when you know the spelling of one homophone but intend to convey the other.

Subsubsection Common Homophones

Here is a list of commonly confused homophones and some example sentences using them. But if you are unsure of a word and it's not listed here, try looking it up in a dictionary or thesaurus to make sure it's the word you want!

a lot

allot

I have a lot of homework this week.

I will allot three hours to doing homework today.

accept

except

I accept your apology for cutting me in line at Diversions.

I’ve tried every coffee flavoring, except lavender.

addition

edition

In addition to everything else I have to do, I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.

Professors usually prefer for you to have the latest edition of the textbook for class.

aesthetic

ascetic

Drinking a green smoothie out of a mason jar with a metal straw really adds to your sustainable aesthetic.

Many students have different study habits; some are more ascetic than others.

affect

effect

Sleep deprivation and endless consumption of energy drinks will eventually affect your health.

The energy drink had an effect on the student’s productivity.

are

our

We are Loggers!

. . .but our favorite thing is chocolate. . ..

board

bored

I enjoy longboarding down the bike path on sunny days.

If you ever find yourself bored with an assignment, try to find an aspect that captures your individual interest.

born

borne

President Crawford was born in St. Louis, MO.

My current time management skills were borne of terrible procrastination habits, many nights of sleep deprivation, and frantic attempts to meet paper deadlines.

break

brake

Learning how to brake in the ASUPS vans can be tricky.

After studying for my biology exam, working through my music theory homework, and reading my articles for religion class, I’m ready for a break.

complement

compliment

The green ivy nicely complements the red bricks of the academic buildings and residence halls.

My friend has the widest grin; they always receive compliments on their smile.

concious

conscience

We are very environmentally conscious at Puget Sound.

My conscience keeps me from doing unethical science because I know that unethical science is bad.

discreet

discrete

I discreetly slipped an admiring letter under my crush's door.

There are three discrete types of sport fencing: foil, epee, and sabre.

emigrate

immigrate

The transfer student’s family emigrated from their home country with the intent to live somewhere else.

The transfer student’s family immigrated to this country from their home country.

grate

great

The first-year student accidentally dropped their key-card into the rainwater grate by the SUB.

I've heard Collins Memorial Library has some great study spaces.

hear

here

I hear that the view from the astronomy tower is a sight to behold.

I’ve really made a home for myself here at Puget Sound.

hoard

horde

I tend to hoard library books for my research papers right up until their due date.

The horde of prospective students, parents, and family members glanced around excitedly as they followed the campus visit guide through campus.

hole

whole

The University of Puget Sound Golf Team won the tournament by making a hole in one.

I was so hungry, I ate the whole The Cellar pizza by myself.

it's

its

It’s no wonder the school spends so much money on landscaping—the campus is beautiful!

The University of Puget Sound is known for its beautiful landscaping.

isle

aisle

Vashon Isle is a great place to go biking on the weekend.

I perused the candy aisle in search of a late night snack.

know

no

I know that my keys are around here somewhere.

Actually, I have no idea where my keys are.

lessen

lesson

To lessen my homework load, I plan on working on each assignment a bit every day before it’s due.

The lesson on glycolysis offered a fascinating glimpse into the dynamics of the body’s metabolic pathways.

levee

levy

In 2011, boulders and gravel were hauled to bolster the Elwha river levee in preparation for the demolition of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams later that year.

In my government class, we learned about the tax levy as a federal mechanism for ensuring satisfaction of tax liability.

male

mail

Male, female, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming bathrooms are offered in many of the academic and residential buildings on campus.

You can buy stamps, send, and receive mail in the mailroom in the SUB.

passed

past

I need to call my mom to tell her that I passed my math class!

The past few years at Puget Sound have been some of the best years of my life.

perspective

prospective

Volunteering is a great way to introduce yourself to new perspectives in the Tacoma community.

The prospective student asked the tour guide if the weather was always this sunny.

principal

principle

It took a while for me to remember that colleges have presidents, not principals.

On principle, I try to finish my homework before watching Netflix.

rain

reign

It rains on occasion in Tacoma.

President Obama was our reigning president between 2009-2017.

since

sense

Since it rains a lot in Tacoma, continuing students recommend that new students bring good raincoats when they move in.

Does this sentence make sense?

than

then

Is Diversions better than Starbucks?

If all you need is caffeine, then it really doesn’t matter where you get your coffee!

weather

whether

The weather in Tacoma can be fickle; I’ve seen rain, hail, sunshine, snow, and clouds in one day.

My favorite footwear for the day will depend on whether or not it’s raining.

whose

who's

Whose sock is this?

Who’s going to clean up all these socks in the laundry room?

woman

women

I am a woman.

We are women.

woman's

women's

That woman’s dog is so cute.

The women’s soccer team is doing well this year.

capital

capital

Capitol

Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States.

In class, we debated the ethics of capital punishment.

I visited the Capitol in Washington D.C.

pallet

palate

palette

I didn’t bring my bed frame when I moved to campus, so I was worried I might have to build one from wooden pallets. Luckily, the University supplied a bed in my room.

After finishing a scrumptious garden tortellini dinner in the SUB, I cleaned my palate with a mango smoothie.

The art major carefully arranged their color palette before beginning a new project in Kittredge.

sight

site

cite

In the sunshine after a long rainfall, campus is a dazzling sight.

The Tacoma Chinese Garden and Reconciliation Park is an historic waterfront site commemorating the expulsion of the Chinese population from Tacoma in 1885.

Remember to cite all of your sources as you write; otherwise, you might accidentally plagiarize someone else’s work.

there

their

they're

There are a lot of bunnies on campus for some reason.

Their fur looks so fuzzy!

They’re really cute.

to

too

two

I like to go to Point Defiance.

Sometimes it’s too cold to stay there long, though.

When it is too cold, I usually wear two coats to keep warm.

your

you're

yore

Your residence hall is beautiful.

You’re lucky to live in Thomas Hall.

In the days of yore, Puget Sound tuition was only $20!

Subsubsection Incorrect Use of Its and It's

The text "Its = possessive" has the following example below it: "My raincoat is missing its hood." The text "It’s = it is" is flanked by this example: "It’s unfortunate because it’s really rainy today." On the left side of the image is a comic of an umbrella with the text "Is it possessive or a contraction?" Raindrops falling onto the umbrella bear a mix of the word "its" and the word "it’s."

One of the more common homophone errors writers make is between “its” and “it's.” While they sound the same, “its” is the possessive pronoun of “it” and “it's” is the contraction of “it is.” One way to differentiate them is to identify why you are using one version or the other. “Its” is used to convey possession by an inanimate object, action, idea, animal, group, or person whose gender is overlooked, as in the sentence “The dog bounded happily toward its owner on Todd Field.” “It's” with an apostrophe is used to indicate “it is” or the past tense “it was,” as in the sentences “It's [it is] a universally acknowledged belief that a dog is a human's best friend,” or “It's [it has] been great getting to know all the dogs that frequent campus.” If you are trying to figure out which form to use, try splitting “its” into “it is” or “it was” and see if the sentence still makes sense. For instance, the sentence “The dog bounded happily toward it is owner on Todd Field,” does not make very much sense, so this may be an indication that the correct form to use is “its.”

Below are some sentence examples of “its” and “it's” to help you distinguish which form to use.

Example 7.3.12. Appropriate Usage of “Its”.

“The University celebrated its 128th birthday this year.”

“To conserve energy, the hummingbird can slow its metabolic rate to 1/15th its normal rate.”

“The Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying employed only local Seattle actors and performed on its own specially constructed stage.”

“Every year, the humanities department hosts a Palaver dinner for its students.”

Example 7.3.13. Appropriate Usage of “It's”.

“Skiing is fun, but it's [it is] also a great workout.”

“From Tacoma, it's [it is] only a brief 45-minute drive to Seattle.”

“I've worked for weeks on my paper, but how do I know when it's [it is] really finished?”

“In spite of the slight breeze, it's [it has] been a pleasant day here on campus.”

Note 7.3.14. Note.

It's important to remember that contractions (such as “it's”) are informal and generally not appropriate in academia and should rarely be used in formal academic writing (such as lab reports, analytical essays, etc.). HOWEVER: the use of “it's” depends on the discipline, professor, writing assignment, and your own creative and scholarly voice, so don't be afraid to employ it intentionally as you see fit.