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Homophones and Confused Word Pairs: Writing Skills Success Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Homophones and Confused Word Pairs: Writing Skills Success Practice Exercises.

I have been a believer in the magic of language since, at a very early age, I discovered that some words got me into trouble and others got me out.

—Katherine Dunn, American novelist (1945— )

Lesson Summary

Threw or through? To, two, or too? Brake or break? This lesson and the next review a host of words that are often confused with other words, and show you when to use them.

This lesson covers some of the most commonly confused word pairs you are likely to use in your writing. If you learn to distinguish these words, you can avoid errors in your writing. These words are divided into three separate sections with practice exercises at the end of each section. The italicized words following some of the entries are synonyms, words that can be substituted in a sentence for the easily confused words.

Three-Way Confusion

Lead/Led/Lead

  • Lead as a verb means guide, direct. As a noun, it means front position. It rhymes with seed.
  • Led is a verb, the past tense of lead, meaning guided, directed. It rhymes with red.
  • Lead is a noun that is the name of a metal. It rhymes with red.
  • Examples:
      Geronimo led (guided) the small band to safety.
      We hope the next elected officials will lead (guide) us to economic recovery.
      A pound of styrofoam weighs as much as a pound of lead (the metal).
      Jake took the lead (front position) as the group headed out of town.

Quite/Quit/Quiet

  • Quite is an adverb meaning completely, very, entirely. It rhymes with fight.
  • Quit is a verb meaning stop, cease or stopped, ceased. It rhymes with sit.
  • Quiet as an adjective means calm, silent, noiseless. As a verb, it means soothe, calm. As a noun, it means tranquility, peacefulness. It almost rhymes with riot.
  • Example:
      The firm was quite (very) surprised when its most productive investment specialist quit (stopped) work and opted for the quiet (calm) life of a monk.

Right/Write/Rite

  • Right is an adjective meaning correct, proper, opposite of left.
  • Write is a verb meaning record, inscribe.
  • Rite is a noun meaning ceremony, ritual.
  • Example:
      I will write (record) the exact procedures so you will be able to perform the rite (ceremony) in the right (proper) way.

Sent/Cent/Scent

  • Sent is a verb, the past tense of send. It means dispatched, transmitted.
  • Cent is a noun meaning one penny, a coin worth .01 of a dollar.
  • Scent is a noun meaning odor, smell.
  • Example:
      For a mere cent (penny), I bought an envelope perfumed with the scent (odor) of jasmine, which I sent (dispatched) to my grandmother.
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