The pair of pears on my desk reminds me of the importance of careful word selection, particularly in business communications. Homophones – words that are pronounced the same, but have different meanings – can be easy to misuse. Spell check isn’t going to point out to you that you’ve used the incorrect form of two/to/too, for instance, but picking the wrong option can jeopardize the credibility of your otherwise brilliant blog.
One of the most commonly misused sets of homophones is they’re/their/there. When you need to use one of these words in your writing, take a moment to think through what you’re actually trying to communicate – the contracted form of “they are,” a possessive pronoun that should be followed immediately by a noun, or an adverb which often refers in some way to a place. Look up your choice at dictionary.com if you’re (not your) still unsure.
Other commonly confused homophonic sets include compliment/complement, stationary/stationery, bear/bare, and air/err/heir. You can easily find lists of homophones on the internet. Taking a moment to browse through one of these lists can be fun and might save you from an embarrassing gaffe (not gaff) in the future.
KD King has been with the Academy since 2010. She supports the membership by coordinating all manner of projects and conference call details, as well as by compiling data for a variety of studies conducted by the Academy. Her background is in writing, teaching, and business management.
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