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Homonym Heaven

The Internet: Homonym Heaven!

By Judy Vorfeld

Have you ever vis­ited a visu­ally attrac­tive site and then spot­ted phrases such as, “If your inter­ested in learn­ing more about our Websight, e-mail us,” or “This prod­uct comes with an uncon­di­tional guar­an­tee. It’s high qual­ity will make you’re life bet­ter!”? How about, “Body fat prob­lems? We can help. Of coarse you need patients when it comes to reduc­ing the access around you’re waste.”

You have just entered the puz­zling world of homonyms (same: homo — name: nym). A homonym is a word with the same pro­nun­ci­a­tion as another but with a dif­fer­ent mean­ing and ori­gin and usu­ally, dif­fer­ent spelling as well. These lit­tle crit­ters run ram­pant through cyber­space, espe­cially on Websites, often turn­ing away poten­tial clients/customers.

Rather than rip apart peo­ple who use homonyms in their text, I want to offer some friendly help. We’ll use some of the most com­mon mis­takes and offer alter­na­tives accord­ing Judy’s style!


All right: all right means okay, sat­is­fac­tory, agree­able, safe, good, well.

Alright: While alright is used often in fic­tional dia­logue, and is still pre­ferred by some writ­ers of jour­nal­is­tic and busi­ness pub­li­ca­tions, we’ll merely say that it is out­dated for daily use.

ITS vs. IT’S
Its: The pos­ses­sive form of the pro­noun it. NEVER writ­ten with an apos­tro­phe. Since most pos­ses­sives have apos­tro­phes, this con­fuses many people.

It’s: con­trac­tion of it is and it has. Examples: It’s time to go … It’s been great … It’s a well-designed site.

Your shows own­er­ship: it’s your choice … it’s your money … it’s your Website.

You’re is a con­trac­tion of “you” and “are.” Example: You’re head­ing in the right direction.

Both words: “You’re tak­ing a big risk with your ani­mated graphics.”

Their: pos­ses­sive form of the word “they.” As with the pos­ses­sive of it, you do NOT use an apos­tro­phe for this word. You say, “Their site is col­or­ful, crisp, and clear.”

They’re: Contraction of the words “they” and “are.” Example: They’re giv­ing away pow­er­ful prizes.

There: at or in that place, e.g., “Now there is a sound sys­tem to die for.”

All three: They’re eat­ing their hot fudge sun­daes before head­ing over there.

Principal: first in author­ity; main par­tic­i­pant; amount of a debt, invest­ment, minus the inter­est, or on which inter­est is com­puted. Examples: She is a high school prin­ci­pal … K. A. Simpson is a prin­ci­pal in the firm … he still owes $5,000 on the principal.

Principle: basic truth or assump­tion. His ethics and prin­ci­ples are lower than a snake slith­er­ing on its stomach.

If you’re a web­site owner who has prob­lems with homonyms, spelling, punc­tu­a­tion, cap­i­tal­iza­tion, or just plain writ­ing, don’t be dis­cour­aged! You have a num­ber of choices:

  • Ignore the fact and hope no one notices. After all, you have a great prod­uct or service!

  • Keep a good dic­tio­nary on your desk at all times, use it fre­quently, and guard it with your life.
  • Hire a copy­ed­i­tor to proof your words.
  • Ask a friend to proof your words. If your friend isn’t tact­ful and you’re rather sen­si­tive, you may end up with one less friend and a hole in your heart.
  • Find one of the many sites designed to help you with spe­cific gram­mar and lan­guage prob­lems. See the list below.
    Alan Cooper’s Homonyms
    Self-study Homonym Quizzes
    Homonym Game
    Notorious Confusables


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