Write Right Now contains two homophones – two words with the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. One of those homophones is also a homonym – a word that could mean more than one thing, spelt the same way and pronounced the same way. My sister site Copywrite Now uses a cunning mixture of homonym and homophone depending on the way you split up the words. I imagine most people can see what I’ve done with the two titles, but this kind of wordplay is possible because the English language is frankly a bit of a mess for clashes in words’ spelling, pronunciation and meaning. It’s a frequent difficulty for new learners and native speakers alike, and I doubt most people have given it a second thought since school, so I’m gonna don my teacher cap and explain a little about the mechanics of these ridiculous words.
What are homonyms?
Homonyms are two words that are spelt the same, and pronounced the same, but have a different meaning. Like right. In Write Right Now, this might mean write immediately or write correctly now. It might also mean write towards your right (to the starboard, if you’re on a boat). There’s a lot of these crafty buggers in the English language. It wouldn’t be much use listing any because they’d all look like the same word. One of the most versatile is fuck, though. The homonym to beat all homonyms.
What are homophones?
Next up, homophones. These are words with the same pronunciation but different meanings. These can be homonyms, with the same spelling, like right (and right), or heterographs, with different spellings, like write and right. These can also be phrases made up of more than one word, for instance copywrite, copy right and copyright (to write copy, to copy correctly or to patent). These are technically heterograph homophones.
Heterographs can be some of the most baffling of creatures in the English language, like through and threw.
What are homographs?
Homographs are words with the same spelling but different meanings. All homonyms are also homographs (so technically right is a homonym, a homograph and a homophone). However, homographs can also be two words with the same spelling that are pronounced differently, for instance ‘read’ in I love to read but I’ve read it already. Or ‘bow’ in The quality of the bow tied to the ship’s bow made them bow in respect. These wily words with the same spelling and different pronunciations and meanings are called heteronyms. And they’re right bastards.
What does this mean for you?
A lot of the most common mistakes in the English language come from mixing up homophones, homophones and everything in between. They’re the reason for the confusions of your and you’re, and there, they’re and their. And a fair chunk of other absurdly similar words in sound or spelling that are likely to mess you up.
In case it’s still not clear, I made a unique graphic to put it all into perspective for you. Use this knowledge wisely, to write right in the future and right the writing you’ve already written.