25 Homophones That Most Spell-Checkers Won’t Catch

25 Homophones That Most Spell-Checkers Won’t Catch

Spell-checkers have come a long way since a West Coast beach boy with an FBI record invented the first prototype at MIT in the 1960s. Nowadays, the überhelpful technology is not only ubiquitous in all word processors, quietly creating more error-free writing around the world, it also exists online, where it can point out mistakes in real time while we write emails or post on social media.

But while spell-checkers’ ability to catch slipups and understand context has evolved tremendously, most of these programs still struggle to identify homophones, those pesky words that sound the same but carry different meanings and, often, different spellings.

While Grammarly has algorithms that will help you correct all of these common mix-ups, there’s no substitute for the old noggin. So next time you’re writing, be sure to put on your thinking cap and look out for these homophones that most spell checkers won’t catch.

A while/Awhile

It had been a while since the long-lost lovers had seen each other, but their passion was still so true they didn’t mind waiting awhile for their fast-approaching reunion.

Accept/Except

Everyone except Christopher, who has already discovered the truth, needs to accept the fact that the world is not flat.

Affect/Effect

The technicians didn’t realize that the special effect that creepily breathed down viewers necks would affect audience members so deeply. People ran out of the theater screaming.

Aide/Aid

The teacher’s aide was the first to arrive at school that day. So when the tornado hit, she gave as much aid to the kids as possible.

Aloud/Allowed

After breaking the television set he wasn’t allowed to touch, Bart had to repeat this phrase aloud 1,000 times: I will not replace the television dials with marshmallows.

Anytime/Any time

Call anytime! Actually, scratch that. Call me at any time after 5:00 p.m.

Bizarre/Bazaar

The strange, old-fashioned bazaar featured a freak show made up of bizarre and mysterious people.

Capital/Capitol

The protesters left their own state capitals to converge on the Capitol building in Washington, DC, and rally for their cause.

Cite/Site/Sight

The site of the excavation came into sight as they emerged from the tunnel. If the bones were in fact dinosaur bones, then scientists would need to cite the analysis taken from this discovery in every paleontology research paper for the next hundred years.

Compliment/Complement

The winemaker received compliment after compliment for her incredible pairing. Each selected dish seemed the perfect complement to the chosen vintages.

Conscience/Conscious

My conscience plagues me most when I’m sleeping. Then, when I wake up, I become conscious of the guilt I’m feeling for my actions.

Desert/Dessert

If only this hot, sandy desert were made of dessert. Then I could simply eat my way out of it.

Elude/Allude

If you’re going to allude to your diamond heist so casually in conversation, you should prepare to elude the authorities, who will most likely find out about the theft.

Ensure/Insure

It seems strange that in order to ensure my son can receive medical treatment, I need to insure him with the healthcare company on the day of his birth.

Every day/Everyday

Just because the office attire is everyday wear doesn’t mean you should wear the same clothes every day.

Formerly/Formally

Formerly a Buddhist monk clothed only in a tunic, he was confused by the need to dress formally, in a shirt and tie, for work.

Guerilla/Gorilla

The paramilitary forces had a new tactic; they were going to use actual gorillas as foot soldiers in their guerilla warfare.

Led/Lead,

He led them through the dangerous forest of giant spiders with only a headlamp and a lead pipe. As the lead scout, he needed to be brave and fearless even though he felt incredibly frightened.

One/Won

She won the costumed thumb war competition by one measly point.

Pedal/Peddle

If you want to peddle stolen goods to innocent people, you’d better be prepared to pedal your bike as fast as you can away from the town when you’re done.

Pore/Pour

If you pore over your schoolbooks with the same discipline that you apply to gaming, I won’t be forced to pour this macaroni over your head.

Premier/Premiere

The premier of Switzerland eagerly awaited the premiere of the new production of the Sound of Music. The woman cast as Maria was the country’s premier actress.

Principle/Principal

School principals should be people of principle. Their behavior and attitude should, in principle, be an example to all students.

Reign/Rein

Take the reins and lead the horse as if you’re ruling a kingdom and your reign has lasted five decades.

Weather/Whether

Who cares about the weather? We’re going to have a good time regardless of whether it’s raining, snowing, or glowing.
Are you confused by one of these examples? Let us know in the comment section below or via our Facebook or Twitter feeds and we’ll try our best to give you an explanation that makes sense.

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Comments
  • Tracy-Gregory Gilmore

    Really helpful for those of us who suffer dyslexia and tend to rely too heavily on spell checkers.

  • Maureenhowland

    Current reliance on the spell checker before submitting a piece of work produces as many errors as it corrects. I have noted a recent spate of confusing bare/bear, as in “I just can’t bare it” – quite funny when it conjures incongruent images of strip tease. Learning to spell correctly using only your on-board computer (ie brain) is a useful skill to acquire.

  • Ingeborg Nordén

    My homophonic pet peeve: seeing “awe” where the writer clearly means “aw”. If I read “Awe, how cute!” as a reaction to someone’s cat video, I imagine a stoner treating that cuteness as some huge world-shaking experience.

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