ESSENTIAL ENGLISH SKILLS
by Stuart Leventhal
CREATIVE WRITING GRAMMAR LESSON #1: Proper Word Usage
HOMONYMS: Words that sound the same or look the same but mean different things can be confusing for beginning writers. It is hard to remember when to use which! For example:
oar – The paddle used to steer a boa
or - otherwise
ore – mineral
A homonym is a word that presents a challenge for writers because they sound similar and may look similar to each other but mean different things. For example: The word ‘bank’ could mean the building people keep their money in or ‘bank’ could be used to designate the side of a river.
Some homonyms are called homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. For example: brake, break. John’s foot stepped on the ‘brake’ and the car slowed down. John watched the baby chickens ‘break’ out of their egg shells. In the first sentence, ‘brake’ is used as a noun referring to a mechanism designed to stop a vehicle or machine. In the second sentence, ‘break’ is a verb meaning to shatter or fracture.
Another type of homonym is the homographs. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but mean something different. For example: In the following sentence the word ‘lead’ means, to go first. Bobby will ‘lead’ the group down the mountain. But, the word ‘lead’ can also mean the ‘lead’ in a pencil.
Here are a few more examples of homonyms that trick up new creative writers as well as the experienced authors:
Already – Previously
All ready – Everything is prepared.
Coarse – rough, gritty
Course – path of action, as in golf ‘course’
Course – field of study, as in history ‘course’
Miner – worker in a mine, as in diamond miner.
Minor – Not yet old enough to be considered an adult or under the legal age
Minor – mild, as in mild injuries
Stationary – staying in one place.
Stationery – paper used for writing on.
*There are far too many homonyms to list them all here. The best way to know if you are using the correct word or spelling the word properly is to consult your dictionary. Professional writers are expected to use homonyms correctly!
The Guide to Grammar and Writing sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, a nonprofit 501 c-3 organization that supports scholarships and learning.