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3.05 Homonyms and similar-sounding words

Many words are misspelled because they are confused with similar-sounding and similarly spelled words which, in fact, have a different meaning. In the following list of word pairs (and one group of three), information is given in parentheses to indicate which spelling should be used in a particular context:

  • affect (influence)
    • effect (verb: bring about, result in; noun: consequence, impact)
  • allusion (reference)
    • illusion (misleading appearance)
  • all ready (prepared)
    • already (previously)
  • all together (together in a group)
    • altogether (entirely)
  • ascent (climb)
    • assent (agreement)
  • bloc (group of persons, companies or nations)
    • block (group of things; obstruct; solid piece, etc.)
  • born (of birth)
    • borne (carried)
  • breach (gap; violation)
    • breech (lower part)
  • broach (pointed tool or rod; begin to talk about)
    • brooch (type of jewellery)
  • canvas (cloth)
    • canvass (solicit)
  • capital (city; very significant)
    • capitol (government building in U.S.A.)
  • carat (unit of mass for precious stones)
    • caret (proofreader’s mark)
    • karat (unit used to specify proportion of gold in alloy)
  • cast (actors; verb meanings)
    • caste (exclusive social class)
  • censor (check the morality or acceptability of; person who does this)
    • censure (criticize, blame; criticism)
  • chord (music; geometry; engineering)
    • cord (other uses)
  • complement (complete; that which completes)
    • compliment (praise)
  • councillor (member of a council)
    • counsellor (adviser; lawyer)
  • dependant (noun)
    • dependent (adjective)
  • discreet (prudent, tactful)
    • discrete (distinct, separate)
  • dyeing (colouring)
    • dying (approaching death)
  • elicit (draw forth)
    • illicit (unlawful)
  • envelop (verb)
    • envelope (noun)
  • faze (disturb)
    • phase (stage, period)
  • flair (talent)
    • flare (flame, light)
  • forbear (hold back)
    • forebear (ancestor)
  • foreword (preface)
    • forward (ahead)
  • hoard (save up)
    • horde (crowd)
  • immanent (inherent)
    • imminent (about to occur)
  • inequity (unfairness)
    • iniquity (sin)
  • its (belonging to it)
    • it’s (it is)
  • loath (adjective)
    • loathe (verb)
  • loose (set free; untight, etc.)
    • lose (mislay; forfeit)
  • mantel (shelf above fireplace)
    • mantle (cloak, etc.)
  • mucous (adjective)
    • mucus (noun)
  • ordinance (law)
    • ordnance (military weapons)
  • pedal (operate levers with feet; activation device)
    • peddle (sell, hawk)
  • personal (individual; private)
    • personnel (staff)
  • phosphorous (adjective)
    • phosphorus (noun)
  • principal (chief, main, leading; school administrator)
    • principle (rule)
  • prophecy (noun)
    • prophesy (verb)
  • sceptic (one who doubts)
    • septic (involving putrefaction, sepsis)
  • stationary (fixed, motionless)
    • stationery (writing materials)
  • therefor (for this purpose or thing)
    • therefore (for that reason, consequently)
  • troop (soldiers)
    • troupe (actors, performers)
  • waive (give up, forego)
    • wave (move up and down, etc.)