Some things about Facebook make me crazy. Perhaps one of the biggest twitch inducers is any status message that substitutes YOUR for YOU’RE.
Homonyms, homophones, and homographs can trick even the most seasoned writers. Sometimes the confusion stems from not knowing how to spell the word you mean to use. I can remember a time when I used “phase” in place of “faze” simply because I didn’t know the latter was spelled differently.
Other times, you may know the right word, and even mean to use it, but for some reason, your brain tosses out a sound-alike instead. For example, I know the difference between “it’s” (the contraction for “it is”) and “its” (the possessive form). It has been drilled into my skull since elementary school, yet, if I’m writing full-out at the speed of thought, my brain will insist my fingers type the wrong one. (I also find I have an odd habit of substituting “hear” for “here” if I’m in the midst of an IM exchange. What’s up with that?)
So, when I see “Your” and “You’re” confused on Facebook, I sit on my hands, twitch, and resist the urge to comment about it. An editor encountering such mix-ups in your work will probably twitch as much, but won’t remain quiet.
To prevent sound-alike words from causing confusion in your writing, (and possibly making my eyeballs fall out of my head from all the twitching) check out this handy list compiled by Alan Cooper, titled, appropriately enough, Alan Cooper’s Homonyms. Mr. Cooper includes a brief definition with each word to help you sort out which one you mean. And he’s also kind enough to explain the difference between homonyms, homographs, and homophones.
Oh, just for fun, and to show how prevalent the sound-alike words can be, each word in this post that can be paired with another that sounds the same but has a different spelling appears in blue.
Do you see any I missed?