They’re the words and phrases that are always there, ready to trip up reporters when writing their stories.
They won’t be sorted out by a spellcheck.
But those homophones – words which sound the same but have different meanings and/or spellings – can make us look silly if we’re not careful.
So here’s a guide through the minefield of some of the most common ones – ones which I see with slightly alarming regularity.
Accept and except: I accept the views of most people, except the ones I disagree with
Aloud and allowed: Singing aloud should not be allowed on buses
Break and brake: My brakes failed, causing me to crash and break my leg
Breech and breach: Midwives breached normal safety procedures to deliver a breech baby at the roadside
Canvas and canvass: The pollsters spent the night camping under canvas after canvassing opinions all day
Chord and cord: The tragedy of the man with the damaged spinal cord struck a chord with readers
Curb and kerb: The council is bringing in new rules to curb parking on kerbs
Desert and dessert: Before he set off for the desert, the explorer tucked into a massive meal, including dessert
Die and dye: I would rather die than dye my hair green
Discreet and discrete: The diplomat was discreet about the fact that private and public lives had to be kept discrete
Flair and flare: He wore his flared trousers with flair as he set off the distress flares
It’s and its: It’s time for the council to take its duties seriously
Marshal and martial: The volunteer dad acted as a marshal at the martial arts event
Navel and naval: The naval officer had a very strange navel, which he blamed on his mum
Pedal and peddle: The enterprising cyclist used pedal power to peddle his wares
Pore and pour: Sweat poured out of every pore
Principal and principle: The principal of the college resigned on principle after being told to cut courses
Reign and rein: Republicans want to rein in the monarchy, saying the Queen has reigned for too long
Stationary and stationery: The lorry carrying the office stationery was stationary in a traffic jam
Story and storey: I am writing this story on the third storey of this building
Team and teem: The team all had umbrellas, ready for it to teem with rain
Through and threw: I threw a stone through the window
Throne and thrown: The throne was in the Buckingham Palace skip, thrown there by an angry Prince Philip
Who’s and whose: The man who’s writing this is the same man whose blog is littered with homophones
Hope that helps.
Strangely enough, I won’t be providing a sentence that helps you distinguish between seamen and semen. You’re on your own there.