Yesterday I blogged about homographs which are “words with the same spelling but different meanings” and they can sometimes sound different (according to Bernard C Lamb in his book The Queen’s English) e.g. ‘row’ which can rhyme with ‘go’ and also ‘cow’. Homophones are words which have the same sound but different meanings, e.g. led/lead, so/sew, read/red and row/row (as in ‘lining things up in a row’ and ‘rowing with oars’). The key thing to remember with homophones is that they sound the same even though they might be spelt differently. Confused yet? Here are some examples:
I have red shoes
I read the morning paper
I led a team of people
It was a lead weight
They were sitting in a row
Do you need me to row the boat?
To echo Richard C Lamb’s words “homophones are words which sound alike“. To remember what a homophone is, a tip he gives is to break the word down into two parts: ‘homo’ meaning ‘alike’ and ‘phone’ which makes you imagine a ‘sound’ or a voice.
As a writer, you have to be clear which meaning you are using otherwise it could get very confusing to the reader.
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Bernard C. Lamb The Queen’s English (2010), UK