Commonly Misspelled Homophones

Hopefully this post will help people understand the commonly misused spellings of these homophones: to, two, and too and there, they’re, and their. I wrote a series of worksheets on these for the Cerritos College Writing Center when I worked there at age 26 in 1996 🙂 My then boss, the director of the writing department Beverly Whitson-Cotton, thought so much of them, I heard a few years later from a co-teacher they were still being reproduced and passed out. I made them after seeing the same errors over and over again. It was easier to just hand them a handout instead of say the same thing again and again.

Here’s basically what the handouts said:

Homophones are words with the same sound but different spellings and different meanings. Two commonly misused words are the homonyms:

to, two, and too -and- their, they’re, and there

to=a preposition, or a a directional type of word: “I am going to the store.” It is also a form of an infinitive verb such as “to run” or “to play.”

two=the number

too=a modifer meaning “in excess.” (This one’s easy to remember because it has an “extra” o, as in an “excess” o)

there=a place

they’re=a contraction … “they are”

their=possesive pronoun: “their car … etc”

Well, I’m sure my old worksheet was much better but that’s the basic run-down. I make typos all the time but I know the proper usage of these words. Do you? Another great resource I recommend for common errors and helps with writing is Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

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