Friday, April 9, 2021

90+ Commonly Misspelled Sound-Alike Word Pairs

by Jodie Renner, editor & author  

Have you chosen the right word/spelling for the meaning you want to convey? When two (or three) words sound the same, it's easy to inadvertently choose the wrong one.

 If you sometimes get a “brain blip” about the spelling of homonyms / homophones, bookmark this chart to help you with 90+ of the most commonly confused, misused, or misspelled sound-alikes in English.

The list, with deliberately simplified definitions for quick and easy reference, is in alphabetical order and includes some easier words you may know well and other combos you may not be 100% sure of, such as rein/reign, illusion/allusion, oral/aural, cord/chord, pour/pore, it
s/its compliment/complement, aisle/isle, peddle/pedal, gorilla/guerrilla, exercise/exorcise, discreet/discrete, whos/whose, peek/peak, council/counsel, and lightning/lightening.

accept – to take, receive
except – all but this or that one

ad  advertisement
add  plus; augment; increase

advice (noun) – you give advice
advise (verb) – you advise someone

affect (verb) – to cause change
effect (noun) – the result of change

aisle – corridor in a store or church
isle – island
I’ll – I will

allot – to assign, to distribute
a lot – many, a bunch, numerous
alot – not a word

allowed – permitted
aloud – out loud (not silent)

allusion – an indirect reference to something (you allude to something)
illusion – false impression, misconception

altar  a table or place that serves as a center of worship or ritual
alter  to change, fix

aw (or aww) – to express a soft, warm feeling (Aw, that's cute.)
awe – expressing wonder, reverence, or admiration (in awe of something)

bare – unclothed; unprotected; plain; unadorned
bear – wild animal; to hold up or support

bazaar – open-air market
bizarre – strange, weird

beat – win, overcome; or hit, strike
beet – red root vegetable

bolder – braver
boulder – a large rock

boarder – room renter who gets meals as well
border – edge, boundary

brake – to slow or stop vehicle
break – shatter, fracture

buy – to purchase
by – go past; near; doer, creator
bye – goodbye

capital – city, wealth, uppercase letter     
capitol – legislative building

chord – musical, strike a chord
cord – string, rope; vocal cords

coma – lengthy unconsciousness
comma , (punctuation mark)

complement – goes well with
compliment – say something nice

complementary – free
complimentary – giving compliments, praise

council – a group of people in charge
counsel – to give advice or instruction

coarse – rough, harsh, crude
course – route, direction, program, class

desert – dry, arid area
dessert – sweet treat after meal
  But "He got his just deserts" = "He got what was deserved."

discreet – unobtrusive, modest, prudent
discrete – distinct, individual, finite

doe – female deer
dough – unbaked cookies, bread, etc.      

do – to act
dew – moisture, condensation
due – owed, need to pay

dual – double, two

duel – combat, conflict, or contest between two opponents

evasive  avoiding
invasive  taking over, invading, attacking

exercise – exertion, action, practice
exorcise – to expel, to get rid of (evil spirits)

fair – not dark; unbiased; exhibition
fare – price, fee; food, diet

faze – to disturb, disconcert, daunt, bother, worry
phase – a stage of change

farther – physical distance
further – additional

feet – plural of foot
feat – significant, difficult act or accomplishment

flair  talent or ability
flare  blaze, flame

flea – bug
flee – run away

formally – in a formal manner
formerly – previously

forward  ahead
Foreword  part of the front matter of a book

gorilla – ape
guerrilla or guerilla – type of fighter

grate – to cut up; to irritate
great – wonderful; very large

grisly – gruesome
grizzly – bear

heal – to make well
heel – back of foot

hear – sound
here – place

heroin – drug
heroine – female hero

higher – farther up
hire – to employ someone

hoard – to accumulate a lot (too much)
horde – a large group or gathering

hoarse – condition of throat/voice
horse – large animal

humerus – bone
humorous – funny

incite  stir up, spur on, urge on
insight  perception, discernment, wisdom, seeing clearly

insure – to get insurance
ensure – to make sure

it’s – it is or it has
its – belongs to it

 denim casual pants
genes  hereditary genetics

juggler – person who juggles
jugular – related to the throat

lightening – making lighter or paler
lightning – flashes in a storm

loan – something someone lends
lone – alone, solitary

loose – not tight
lose – misplace, opposite of find

main – principal, most important
mane – hair on a horse or lion

no – negative; opposite of yes     
know – to be aware of

oral – related to speaking
aural – related to hearing

our – belongs to us
are – to be: we are, they are

pail – bucket
pale – light-colored

pain – hurt
pane – window

pair – two together
pare – to peel, cut
pear – a fruit

passed - went by, past tense of pass
past - before now, earlier on, ago, bygone, elapsed, beyond (went past)

patience – the ability to wait
patients – people under medical care

peal – ringing of bells
peel – to remove outer layer

peace – not war
piece – part, portion, fragment

peak – highest point
peek – glimpse
pique – excite, arouse (curiosity, etc.)

pedal – part of bicycle, make bike move
peddle – sell

perspective  a mental view; a visible scene; a point of view or opinion
prospective  expected; likely to be or to become

picture  image
pitcher  container for liquid; one who pitches

plain – not fancy
plane – flies in the sky

pore over – study carefully
pour over – dispense liquid

principal – main, head of school
principle – basic truth or law

quiet – opposite of loud or noisy
quite – sort of

raise – to lift up
raze – to tear down
rays – beams of radiant energy 
– the sun's rays 

rapt – engrossed, absorbed in
wrapped – covered, past tense of wrap

rain – water falling
reign – monarch’s rule
rein – strap for a horse; to curb or restrain - rein in

review – look over, go over
revue – theatrical production

right – correct; good; opposite of left
rite – a ceremonial practice ("rite of passage")

sail – part of a boat
sale – discounted prices

sight – something you see
site – location, area
cite – to quote something

sole – one; fish; bottom of foot or shoe
soul – spirit, spiritual part of person

stair – steps
stare – to look intently at

stake – pointed piece of wood; prize; share
steak – cut of meat

stationary – not moving
stationery – writing materials

steal – take without permission
steel – metal

tail – part of animal
tale – story

than – compared to
then – what comes after

their – belongs to them    

there – not here
they’re – they are

threw – tossed
through – pass in and out

to – where you’re going
too – also; excessive
two – 2

vain – conceited; unsuccessful
vane – weather vane
vein – blood vessel; narrow channel; lode (minerals)

wait – don’t go yet
weight – measure mass

wander – to go aimlessly
wonder – to think about something (verb); awe (noun)

wave  hand motion, flutter
waive  to forgo, relinquish (waive your rights)

way  manner, method
weigh  to measure mass or importance

weak  not strong
week  seven days in a row

weather – atmospheric conditions – rain, snow, etc.
whether – choosing or comparing alternatives

were – past tense of "are" - they were
we’re – we are                                               

where – a place

wet – not dry
whet – excite, stimulate; sharpen

which – which one?
witch – woman who practices sorcery

whine – complain
wine – alcoholic beverage from grapes

who’s – who is
whose – belongs to whom

whoa – stop, cease
woe – sadness

wrapped – covered, past tense of wrap
rapt – enthralled, captivated, engrossed in

write – create note, message, story with words
right – correct; opposite of left

you’re – you are
your – belongs to you

Do you have any others you'd like me to add? Please mention them in the comments below.

See also "Just the Right Word is Only a Click Away".

Have trouble remembering whether to hyphenate a word or not? Check out "It's All About Those Hyphens!"

For many more words, in alphabetical order, with explanations and examples, check out Jodie's two handy, clickable, time-saving e-resources for writers, editors, students, and anyone else with writing projects: Quick Clicks: WORD USAGE – Precise Word Choices at Your Fingertips 
With all kinds of internal links, they’re both super quick and easy to use! (They're designed to work on e-readers, tablets, laptops, and computers, but not phones.)

Click HERE to choose a way to receive email alerts of new posts published on this blog. 

Jodie Renner is a former English (and French) teacher, a freelance fiction editor and book coach, and the award-winning author of three writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized and edited two anthologies. Website:, Facebook, Amazon Author Page.

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