Pat Iyer

By Pat Iyer

How to Avoid the Trap of the Treacherous Homophone

How to Avoid the Trap of the Treacherous Homophone 150 150 Patricia Iyer


A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word but has a different meaning.

Join me in the homophone sand trap. Please note that some of the word pairs aren’t pure homophones, such as the first one: accept/except, and the second: affect/effect. For the purposes of language skills, I believe that they sound close enough to get easily confused.


 To accept is to receive with the subtler meaning of “allow.”

I accepted the invitation with gratitude. To except means to exclude.

He excepted the corporation from his ruling.


A simple rule for understanding the difference between these two words is to remember that “affect” is a verb mean to influence something. “Effect,” a noun, is the thing that was influenced.

Her reputation affected the results of the sales department.

Her reputation had the effect of changing the closed sales ratio. 


“Advice” and “advise” are closely related in meaning.  They both refer to opinions and recommendations. The difference is that advice is a noun and advise is a verb.

I advise you to closely study the P&L statements.

She paid close attention to key performance indicators for the marketing department. 


People rarely get confused when “bear” refers to the large animal that may chase you.  Confusion occurs with the verb forms of bare/bear.

“Bare” means to expose, whether body or emotions are involved.

He was afraid to bare his feelings.

 “Bear” means carrying, as in water bearer. It may also refer to carrying emotional or other burdens.

He was able to bear the burden of responsibility for his company.


Vocabulary alert: These two words are notoriously misused.

Both “compliment” and “complement” can be used either as nouns or verbs. That adds to the confusion.

“Compliment” means to praise or flatter. When used as “complimentary,” it means free. Think of the word “gift” which has an “I” in it like the “I” In complimentary.

She treasured the compliment: “Your department exceeded Its goals for the quarter. Great job!”

They were surprised that their purchase entitled them to complimentary financial assessments.

“Complement” means to complete. Complementary colors like red-green, blue-orange, and yellow-purple are opposite each other on the color wheel. When combined in the correct proportions, they complete each other to form white light. If you think of “complete” or “completion,” you will use complement correctly.

The marketing and sales departments work in complementary ways.

Correct use of homophones shows your skill with the English language. Accept my advice so that at a bare minimum you will enjoy the effects of compliments on your writing skills.

Pat Iyer Is a ghostwriter, editor, and one of the original 100 C Suite Network Advisors. Contact her through her website