For the last three years, I have posted on most Tuesdays about words that make many writers look bad: homophones. They’re the ones that sound like another word (or nearly, anyway), but are spelled differently and mean something different. If we’re not careful, any one of us can get caught using the wrong one, because spellcheck will not come to our aid. If the word is spelled correctly, spellcheck will allow it.
So how to remember which is which? Well, over the last 25 years, I have learned a few ways to remember some of the pairs of homophones, and even other misused words, thanks to students in my American grammar workshops.
Here are a few hacks that might help you.
A lot = frequently, often, many (Sarah has a lot of friends.)
Allot = to distribute shares (John will allot each person a fair share.)
Alot = DOES NOT EXIST
The hack: Remember that a lot and its opposite, a little, are both two-word terms.
Bad = adjective always used following to feel (I feel / felt so bad about it.)
Badly = adverb used following all other verbs (I sleep badly some nights.)
The hack: Remember that bad rhymes with sad. It’s sad to feel bad.
Emigrate = to exit a country (Franz emigrated from Germany last year.)
Immigrate = to come into a country (Franz immigrated to the U.S. last year.)
The hack: The first letter of each word is the same: emigrate = exit immigrate = into
Everyday = normal, usual (Work is an everyday event.)
Every day = each day (I go to work every day.)
The hack: Remember that every day and each day are both two-word terms.
Loose = not secured (The dog ran loose in the yard.)
Lose = to get rid of (I need to lose some weight.)
The hack: Remember that loose rhymes with goose, or that lose lost an o.
Do you have ways to remember other tricky word pairs?