Monday, July 9, 2012

The Wright, Right, Write, Rite Way

I suppose the headline is a bit confusing. They all sound alike, but their meanings are different.

In English, we call them homophones. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a homophone is defined as a "word the same sound as another word but different from it in spelling, origin, and meaning."

For the record (according to AHD):
Wright -- A person who constructs something.
Right -- multiple meanings to make things even more confusing including in accordance with or conformable to justice, law, morality, or another standard. 2. In accordance with fact, reason, or truth. 3. Fitting, proper, or appropriate. 4. Most favorable, desirable, or convenient. (It's a long definition so look it up if you want more.)
Write -- To form (letters, symbols, or characters) on a surface with a pen, pencil, or other tool; inscribe. To compose, especially as an author or musician.
Rite -- The prescribed or customary form of conducting a religious or other solemn ceremony.

For those who are learning English as a second (or third or fourth) language, I bet this is one of the difficult aspects. Hey, it's difficult enough for English speakers and writers. I wonder if other languages have homophones?

If you're like me, sometimes a word slips in, probably subconsciously, that shouldn't be there. For example, you're thinking "their house" and write "there house." I hope you don't write "they're house," but all things are possible. Spell check would show a correct spelling but wouldn't catch the misused word.

While I love spell check, and it's a great first line of defense for finding misspellings, it's wise to peruse your manuscript to make sure you're using the right word. Better yet, have someone else give it a good read.

If you're interested in seeing a list of homophones, visit and Wikipedia. You mite, er, might think you have it maid, uh, made, and its, I mean it's a suite, I mean sweet waist, make that waste, of you're, let's make that your time...well, I hope you get the message.

Until the next time...


  1. My mom always used to say that there were no two words in Spanish that meant the same thing. I think she might have been correct...not really sure.

  2. The problem with spell checker in all the common word processing programs is that it does not see words as entities. There is simply no substitute for eye-balling the MS until you're sick of the site of it.

  3. i really loved this post Michael, English is my second language :) the first is spanish and in spanish we also call those words homophones :) but as you say is always to check and double check the spelling :) and just in case I always keep my dictionary on my desk :) best wishes xoxo, Eliz