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Punctuation is Powerful0415
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April 2015
by: Antoinette Franks, CET

The Fraternal Twins of Grammar World - Homonyms!!

      Homonyms. They're what I call the fraternal twins of the grammar world. Why? Because like fraternal twins, there are a lot of major similarities that can cause you, at a glance or in a rush, to mistake one for the other. But in fact, when you take a closer look, they couldn't be more different. Homonyms can be one of the most fascinating but also frustrating aspects of grammar if you do not make the concerted effort to have a concrete grasp of them.

     First, what is a homonym? A homonym is a word that sounds like another but means something different. What's fascinating about this is the amount of words that fall into this category. What's frustrating is how easily you will mistakenly interchange one for the other if you are not paying attention, particularly in the world we work and live in, the court reporting and transcription industry. Knowing your homonyms and their respective meanings is priceless in our field, as it is the difference between having an accurate transcript and totally crucifying the context of a sentence in it. And while everyone makes this mistake on occasion, you will find when you do so, it is frowned upon and really leaves the reader with a bad taste in his or her mouth. That is because it shakes the reader's confidence in your general grasp of grammar, especially if they notice it more than once or you have other less significant errors.

Some examples of homonyms are:

Effect versus Affect

Their, There, and They're

Discreet and Discrete

Principle and Principal

Colonel and Kernel

Bear and Bare

Discussed and Disgust

Incite and Insight

      Those are just a few of what is potentially hundreds of homonyms. In our industry, making it a point to distinguish between these words based on context of the sentence is a priceless tool, particularly because transcription requires listening to what is said and properly determining which word is appropriate. If you do not have a firm grasp of homonyms, or at least have an awareness of how well you do or do not know them, you will inevitably misuse them. In sum, homonyms can be a challenge for anyone. So make it a point to familiarize yourself with them. Learn the differences in their spellings and meanings and the nuances in which they are used. That way, you don't fall victim to mistaking one "fraternal twin" for another. Know your homonyms inside and out, so they don't control you. You control them!!!

By Antoinette Franks, AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriber


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