A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.
Oh Oh, Which Word Is The Right One?
Sound-Alike Words That Aren't Spelled the Same Are Homophones
Words that sound alike but are spelled differently often trip people up when they are writing. No one wants to look ignorant by putting the wrong word, but who has time to look it up over and over?
I'm pretty much a visual learner, so using visual clues helps me differentiate in these situations. It's likely that they will prove useful for you as well.
Some sound-alike words that cause problems are wet/whet and peak/pique/peek.
Here are some tricks to remember which word to use when.
Which Is Right? Wet or Whet Your Appetite?
Wet or Whet Your Appetite?
There's a phrase that's commonly used but often misspelled. It's "whet your appetite." People mistakenly use "wet."
I think the confusion comes because people aren't familiar with the word "whet." Let's clarify this.
See the photo below of the vintage tool? That's a sharpening stone, a whetstone. You have a small version in your kitchen to sharpen your carving knives.
When you whet something, you are sharpening or honing it. That's what happens to your appetite when it is whetted. Something has sharpened your appetite. Maybe it was the smell or the sight of some tasty food.
If you use the wrong word, "wet," then you are saying just the opposite. To wet something might mean to dampen it down. You put water on or dampen a fire to stop it. If you wet or dampen your appetite, then you would be suppressing it.
Let's practice it in a sentence. Leticia hoped her flavorful soup would whet the appetite of her husband as he recovered from the flu.
Got it? May the grammar gods look favorably on your writing.
Here's What a Whetstone Looks Like
Did That Help?
A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning
Peek, Peak, or Pique - Which to Use?
People often get this one mixed up. Here are your clues for remembering the right spelling for the right situation.
- If a peeping Tom PEEKED in a window, you would say "EEK."
- The PEAK of the roof or the PEAK of a mountain form an A shape, so remember you need an A for this situation.
- If something PIQUES your interest, it is probably unique or antique. Remember to use "ique" when you use this pique.
Below are 3 picture to help lock these words into your memory.
EEK! Someone Is Peeking in the Window!
Remember the A in PEAK
Unique or Antique Things Will Pique Your Interest
Does It Make Sense? I Hope So.
There Are Many More Sound-Alike Words
I'll add more over time. Let me know in the comments if there are any particular ones that you'd like visual hints to help you remember them.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you have any tips for remembering the difference between "bare" and "bear"?
Answer: Let's see, to differentiate between bare and bear, try this. The Brits use a phrase "bare arse naked" so keep that in mind when thinking something is unclothed or bare and spell it with an "ar." Other things can be bare (or naked) like your arms if you roll up your sleeves.
A bear, the animal, has ears, so remember to spell it "bear." All other uses like to bear arms (carry a weapon) is also spelled bear. Picture in your mind a furry black bear carrying a rifle (a bear bearing arms).
Now, if you have a naked baby on a furry rug, it is a "bare baby on a bearskin rug."
Question: How can I remember when to use grate and great?
Answer: Try this little trick.
Grate - think of cheese and a grater. "I grated some cheese and I ate it on my salad."
Great - can mean large or superlative, so think of other words like "it was a neat and great treat for the class to go to Disney World." The reminder words all have "eat" in them.
© 2018 Virginia Allain
Hi people! on June 23, 2020:
I think this was very helpful with my homework. Thank you!
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on June 10, 2018:
Thanks for clarifying peek, peak and pique! So simple when explained the way you did! There, their and they're are words I often see used incorrectly in Facebook comments. One describes a place or destination, the second is possessive, and the third is a contraction of two words. It's not rocket science!
Off-topic, however, one word I never forget now to spell correctly is necessary because "cess is necessary"!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 03, 2018:
Your visual examples are good ones as to how to use certain words properly.
Nell Rose from England on May 27, 2018:
Love this! it reminds me of my psychology courses back 20 years ago, on how to remember this sort of thing. I will definitely remember the A in peak now!
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on May 15, 2018:
I loved your get pictures and examples. I hate when I see the wrong used. It "grates" on my eyes.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 10, 2018:
I like your idea of having visual hints to make one remember the distinction.